As of Sunday night, the Maui, Hawaii, wildfire had claimed the lives of 96 people.
"This is the largest natural disaster we’ve ever experienced," Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said during a news conference Saturday night. "It’s going to also be a natural disaster that’s going to take an incredible amount of time to recover from."
According to research from the National Fire Protection Association, the wildfires are the deadliest in the United States in over a century, exceeding the death toll of the 2018 Camp Fire in California.
As reported by CNN, the Lahaina wildfire spread across 2,170 acres and was 85 percent contained as of 3 p.m. local time Sunday. The Upcountry or Kula fire was 60 percent contained and was estimated to cover 678 acres.
Reuters reported that FEMA estimated the cost to rebuild Lahaina at $5.5 billion, with over 2,200 structures damaged or destroyed and more than 2,100 acres (850 hectares) burned.
During Saturday’s news conference, Green warned that the death toll could continue to rise as more victims are discovered. So far, cadaver dogs, canines trained to search for dead bodies, only covered 3 percent of the affected area, Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier said.
Meanwhile, survivors expressed concern that none of the island’s 400 alarms meant to alert residents of tsunamis and other natural disasters ever sounded.
"There were multiple fires at the same time, and the circumstance was greatly complicated also by the heat and the speed with which the fire spread, destroying a great deal of infrastructure," Green said Saturday when asked about the sirens.
"Over time, we’ll be able to figure out if we could have better-protected people. That’s why we’re reviewing everything," he continued.
At the same time, Hawaii’s primary electric provider is facing a lawsuit alleging that electrical power lines blown over by high winds caused the wildfires.
"By failing to shut off the power during these dangerous fire conditions, Defendants caused loss of life, serious injuries, destruction of hundreds of homes and businesses, displacement of thousands of people, and damage to many of Hawai’i’s historic and cultural sites," the lawsuit filed against Hawaiian Electric Industries and three subsidiaries, states.
Although Maui County Mayor Richard T. Bissen Jr. acknowledged that the power lines had fallen onto the roads, the lawsuit does not specify how the power lines caused the fires.
In an email to CNN, Hawaiian Electric vice president Jim Kelly said, "As has always been our policy, we don’t 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. 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," Kelly added.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Justin Sullivan/Staff
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.