Maui fire: First victims named as death toll reaches 106

Source: BBC

The first names of people killed by wildfires in Maui have been released by officials, one week after at least 106 people died on the Hawaiian island.

Just two people – Robert Dyckman, 74, and Buddy Jantoc, 79 – were named.

Three others were identified but their names are being withheld until their families are notified.

The catastrophic fire, which destroyed the historic town of Lahaina within hours, has been followed by a slow and gruelling search for victims.

Twenty sniffer dogs trained to detect bodies have led teams on a block-by-block search of the wreckage, a 5sq mile (13sq km) area now filled with twisted metal and other debris.

As of Tuesday evening, 27% of the disaster site had been searched, Governor Josh Green said in a televised address. He said the number of dead could climb significantly and even double over the next 10 days.

Officials must then complete the difficult work of identifying the dead, a process complicated by the severity of the victims’ burns and one that requires DNA samples and forensic experts.It will likely be a long wait until the full scale of the destruction is understood. The Maui Emergency Management Agency has estimated it will cost $5.52bn (£4.3bn) to rebuild.

“We have officials who don’t even want to go back to the site, that’s how devastating [it is],” said Maui resident Koa Kekahuna.

Many people told the BBC they were frustrated by the scale and speed of the recovery efforts.

One resident, Les Munn, said he had so far received $500 (£392) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) – less than the price of a night in most hotel rooms on the island.

For now, he is still sleeping in a shelter.

In Lahaina, once Hawaii’s royal capital, people are relying on relief supplies co-ordinated by other Maui locals. Ice, water, clothing and other supplies are being delivered by grassroots groups.

On Wednesday, the Honoapiilani Highway, the primary route into Lahaina, will open to non-residents for the first time since last Tuesday’s fires. For days, the road has been closed even to residents who sat in long queue for hours hoping to get in.

The road will be open to everyone during the day, with late-night access limited to West Maui residents, employees and first responders. Still, officials have asked that people travel to this part of the island only if necessary to live, work, or volunteer.

US President Joe Biden has said he will travel to Hawaii “as soon as he can” in the wake of criticism over the federal government’s response. He was asked by a reporter over the weekend about the rising death toll in Hawaii and responded: “No comment.”

The president’s apparent delay in visiting Maui, as well as that remark, has angered many locals, who told the BBC they see his absence as a slap in the face.

“Hey Mr President, how about Hawaii?” said Chaymen Enomoto. “‘No comment’? That is a big screw you.”

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