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UPDATE: 5:10 p.m. The wildfire that took place in Lahaina on Tuesday has resulted in the deaths of at least 89 people. This makes it the deadliest U.S. wildfire of the past century. Governor Josh Green shared the updated death toll in a news conference from Maui, stating that he expects it to increase further. The new figure surpasses the toll of the 2018 Camp Fire in northern California, which claimed 85 lives and destroyed the town of Paradise. Back in 1918, the Cloquet Fire broke out in northern Minnesota, killing hundreds and destroying numerous homes. Currently, two other fires are burning in Maui, with no fatalities reported thus far: one in Kihei and another in the mountainous Upcountry region. Federal emergency workers are actively searching through the aftermath of the blaze, using axes and cadaver dogs to mark homes with a bright orange X upon an initial search and HR when human remains are found.
3:30 p.m. Hawaiian Electric has temporarily suspended billing for around 18,000 customers in affected areas of West Maui and parts of Upcountry Maui. The utility company notified customers with email accounts about this through a notice. Over the weekend, they are working to restore power to those who have lost it during the Maui fires.
2:30 p.m. The Maui Police Department has partially reopened access on Honoapiilani Highway through Waihee to residents of West Maui. The highway is open for those leaving through Maalaea, but only emergency operations are allowed to enter through Maalaea. The police department has urged residents to refrain from trying to return to their homes until the affected area is declared safe by Hazmat teams upon completion of the recovery process. Once the area is secured, it will be reopened for travel. The MPD is requesting the public’s cooperation and patience in avoiding rushing to return to the area. Affected areas in West Maui will be reopened by the MPD after the search and rescue operations are concluded. Vehicles leaving West Maui are permitted to use Honoapiilani Highway through Maalaea.
1:30 p.m. Hawaiian Electric has restored power to one of three main transmission lines serving West Maui, bringing back service to approximately 3,700 customers in Napili, Puukolii, and Mahinahina. The utility plans to restore more circuits carefully throughout the weekend, considering the significant damage sustained by the distribution and substation system. Hawaiian Electric prioritizes the public’s safety and that of their workers during the restoration process. Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation has announced the temporary closure of Runway 523 at Kahului Airport to facilitate cargo operations for airlifting goods and necessities to Maui. The closure will not affect commercial flights but will impact the general aviation community. Commercial flights will be prioritized.
10 a.m. FEMA has deployed over 150 personnel, including search and rescue teams, with more on their way. Additionally, numerous federal agencies and departments have been mobilized to provide assistance. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell is in Hawaii, together with U.S. Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell and Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Guzman. They will meet with Governor Josh Green and other officials to assess the damage. On Friday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Beccera declared a public health emergency in Hawaii, granting health care providers and suppliers greater flexibility to address the emergency health needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Besides FEMA, the Department of Defense, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and others are assisting with the relief efforts. FEMA has provided the following updates today:
– The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has activated the national disaster distress hotline, providing professional counseling services to those in need in Hawaii. They can be contacted via call or text at 800-985-5990.
– The Small Business Administration encourages homeowners, renters, businesses, and nonprofits to apply for low-interest disaster loans. Businesses can request up to $2 million for physical damage or economic injury. SBA Administrator Guzman will meet local small business owners during her visit to discuss available resources for supporting their recovery.
– The American Red Cross has deployed volunteers to provide shelter, food, and other necessities to survivors who cannot return home. They are also aiding in family reunification efforts, deploying reunification teams in Maui and Oahu.
– The Salvation Army is providing meals to individuals and families at the Maui County Pukalani Shelter.
– The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is assisting local officials in assessing the damaged infrastructure.
– The National Guard has activated 134 troops to assist in the ongoing local and federal wildfire response efforts.
– The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working on pet reunification and removal of large animals.
– The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is ensuring that Veteran Affairs hospital patients have sufficient supplies, such as oxygen.
– The U.S. Department of the Interior is coordinating with FEMA and other agencies to address the loss of the Lahaina Historic District and National Historic Landmark.
FEMA encourages Hawaii residents to register for federal assistance by visiting DisasterAssistance.gov, using the FEMA App, or calling 800-621-3362. Residents who use relay services should provide the relay service number to the FEMA operator. For more information on the Hawaii wildfires, visit fema.gov.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Pacific Disaster Center have released maps depicting the extent of the damage and burned areas in Lahaina and Kula caused by Tuesday’s out-of-control wildfires. According to the PDC, damage assessments from the Lahaina Fire indicate that approximately 2,207 structures were damaged or destroyed, with 2,719 structures exposed and 2,170 acres burnt. The center estimated that approximately 86 percent of the buildings in Lahaina that were exposed to the fire were residential. As of late Friday, the death toll from the fire stood at 80, with officials warning that the number will rise as search crews continue to comb through the destroyed structures. Firefighters are currently working to extinguish flare-ups and contain fires in Lahaina, Pulehu/Kihei, and Upcountry Maui. A Kaanapali fire that flared up on Friday night has been reported to be 100 percent contained before 8:30 p.m. On Friday, a county fueling station was set up in the area, distributing approximately 3,000 gallons of gas and 500 gallons of diesel to around 400 vehicles. No fuel distribution will take place today. The county has also reported that a total of 1,418 people were in emergency shelters at various locations. Cell phone services are gradually becoming available in West Maui, and residents are advised to limit phone calls and video streaming services to free up bandwidth for others. The county police have restricted access to West Maui via Maalaea and Waihee. Honoapiilani Highway is open to vehicles leaving Lahaina, while the burned historic Lahaina town area remains barricaded due to hazardous conditions, including toxic particles.