A mobile refrigerated morgue has been brought to the devastated town of Lahaina as Maui officials continue their search for victims of the worst U.S. wildfire in 100 years.
John Pelletier, the Maui police chief, said only three percent of Lahaina – home to more than 9,000 people – had been searched so far.
Officials with cadaver dogs were going house-to-house over the weekend scouring the charred buildings for human remains.
Buildings which had been searched were marked with an X – a custom U.S. officials adopted after Hurricane Katrina – and those containing bodies were marked ‘H.R.’
Members of the FBI’s Evidence Response Team are pictured Sunday setting up racks to put inside a refrigerated mobile morgue
FBI agents are seen on Sunday readying the structures to go inside the morgue
The mobile morgue will allow authorities to keep the bodies cool while they try to identify the remains
The morgue was being prepared Sunday behind a screen as Maui continues to reel from the tragedy
Those who are still missing loved ones are being asked to provide a DNA sample.
Pelletier described the blaze as ‘a fire that melted metal,’ saying it had been severe enough that each recovered body will have to be identified using DNA.
As the dead were beginning to be counted, questions were mounting about how the fire started, how it got so out of control, and whether the official response was sufficient.
The cause has not yet been confirmed, but on Saturday, LippSmith LLP and other law firms filed a class-action lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, alleging that its downed power lines caused the fire, and that company officials ‘inexcusably kept their power lines energized’ despite fire warnings.
The company stated on Sunday it was unable to comment on pending litigation.
‘Our immediate focus is on supporting emergency response efforts on Maui and restoring power for our customers and communities as quickly as possible,’ said Jim Kelly, a spokesman for the company.
‘At this early stage, the cause of the fire has not been determined and we will work with the state and county as they conduct their review.’
It has emerged that Hawaiian Electric did not shut off the power lines when they were warned of the hurricane-force winds that were approaching the island.
States such as California, which suffers a large number of wildfires, frequently deploy a ‘public power shutoff plan,’ which involves intentionally cutting off electricity to areas where big wind events could spark fires.
California began implementing the plan following the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, which up until last week, were the most destructive and deadliest in the country in the last 100 years.
The historic town of Lahaina, which is in Maui County, has suffered black after block of complete devastation from the wildfires; an aerial view shows charred cars demolished buildings on Friday
The death toll has risen to 93, with more bodies expected to be found
Burned houses and buildings are pictured on Saturday in the aftermath of the wildfire
Lahaina is seen from a boat, with the buildings burnt to the ground
An aerial photo taken on Friday shows the fires still smoldering in Lahaina
A Mercy Worldwide volunteer makes damage assessment of charred apartment complex in Lahaina on Saturday
Maui’s firefighting efforts may have been hampered by limited staff and equipment.
Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Firefighters Association, said there are no more than 65 county firefighters working at any given time, who are responsible for three islands: Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
Lahaina resident Riley Curran said he doubted that county officials could have done more, given the speed of the flames.
He fled his Front Street home after seeing the oncoming fire from the roof of a neighboring building.
‘It’s not that people didn’t try to do anything,’ Curran said. ‘The fire went from zero to 100.’
Elsewhere on Maui, at least two other fires have been burning: in south Maui’s Kihei area and in the mountainous, inland communities known as Upcountry. No fatalities have been reported from those blazes.
The Upcountry fire affected 544 structures, most of them homes, Green said.
As many as 4,500 people are in need of shelter, county officials said on Facebook, citing figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pacific Disaster Center.
Josh Green, the governor of Hawaii, said 500 hotel rooms will be made available for locals who have been displaced. An additional 500 hotel rooms will be set aside for workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Some hotels will carry on with normal business to help preserve jobs and sustain the local economy, Green said.
On Friday, Green asked residents with space to open their doors and take in Maui residents who have lost their homes.
The state wants to work with Airbnb to make sure that rental homes can be made available for locals, and Green hopes that the company will be able to provide three- to nine-month rentals for those who have lost homes.
At least 2,200 buildings were damaged or destroyed in West Maui, Green said, nearly all of them residential.
Across the island, damage was estimated at close to $6 billion.
A group of volunteers who sailed from Maalaea Bay, Maui, form an assembly line on Kaanapali Beach on Saturday
The group are seen forming a human chain to get the supplies onto land
People gather for a morning service at Keawalai Church, founded in 1832, in Makena on Sunday
J.P. Mayoga, a cook at the Westin Maui in Kaanapali, has seen his job switch from feeding tourists to cooking for the roughly 200 hotel employees and their family members who have been living there since Tuesday’s fire devastated the Lahaina community just south of the resort.
His home and that of his father were spared.
But his wife, two young daughters, father and another local are all staying in a hotel room together, as it is safer than Lahaina, which is covered in toxic debris.
Maui water officials warned Lahaina and Kula residents not to drink running water, which may be contaminated even after boiling, and to only take short, lukewarm showers in well-ventilated rooms to avoid possible chemical vapor exposure.
‘Everybody has their story, and everybody lost something. So everybody can be there for each other, and they understand what’s going on in each other’s lives,’ he told AP of his co-workers at the hotel.
The latest death toll surpassed that of the 2018 Camp Fire in northern California, which left 85 dead and destroyed the town of Paradise.
The fires are Hawaii’s deadliest natural disaster in decades, surpassing a 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people.
An even deadlier tsunami in 1946 killed more than 150 on the Big Island.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12403503/Lahaina-Maui-mobile-morgue-refrigerated-bodies-search-victims.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 EXCLUSIVE: FBI has set up mobile refrigerated morgue to store casualties in Lahaina as death toll from firestorm hits 93 and authorities say they have searched only three percent of destroyed town