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Maui wildfires: Crews make progress against Maui wildfires that killed at least 80 people,


As the Maui wildfire death toll mounts and search teams and their cadaver dogs continue the grim work of sifting through the ruins of burned buildings, officials estimated on Saturday that it will cost billions to restore the once-picturesque town of Lahaina.

Firefighters have made some progress in containing the blazes, which have killed at least 80 people and leveled entire communities, but officials warn they do not know exactly how many people are still missing after wildfires earlier this week began eating through neighborhoods in western Maui.

The blazes, fanned by powerful winds from Hurricane Dora hundreds of miles offshore, have become the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii since statehood in 1959.

As of Friday evening local time, all three fires were still active after initial reports came Tuesday. And while there have been some improvements in containment, the risk of flare-ups remains.

People in Kaanapali were evacuating Friday night after spotting a fire in the neighborhood, which is about 4 miles north of hard-hit Lahaina, Maui police said. The fire was later 100% contained, according to county officials.

Of the three largest wildfires that crews have been combating, the deadly fire in Lahaina was 85% contained, Maui County officials said Friday afternoon, up from 80% reported the day before.

The Pulehu fire – located farther east in Kihei – was 80% contained Friday, another sign of improvement from 70% on Thursday, officials noted. A third inferno in the hills of Maui’s central Upcountry was 50% contained on Friday, officials said.

Matthew Thayer/The Maui News/AP

The hall of the historic Waiola Church and the nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Tuesday, August 8.

Rick Bowmer/AP

A woman digs through rubble of a home destroyed by a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Friday, August 11.

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources/AP

This photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources shows burnt areas of grasslands in the Upcountry region on the Maui island, Hawaii, on Friday.

Rick Bowmer/AP

Burnt boats sit in waters off of Lahaina, Hawaii, on Friday.

Rick Bowmer/AP

People walk along Main Street past wildfire damage in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Friday.

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources/AP

This photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources shows burnt areas in the Kula community of the Upcountry region on the Maui island, Hawaii, on Friday.

Mike Blake/Reuters

A cat looks out from a burned open field caused by the south Maui fire as Maui island deals with the aftermath of multiple wildfires on Friday.

Rick Bowmer/AP

A man sits on the Lahaina historic banyan tree damaged by a wildfire on Friday.

Rick Bowmer/AP

The destroyed Waiola Church is shown following wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii on Friday.

Rick Bowmer/AP

A man walks through wildfire wreckage in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Friday.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In an aerial view, cars are back up on the Honoapiilani highway as residents are allowed back into areas affected by the recent wildfire in Wailuku, Hawaii, on Friday.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Zoltan Balogh clears away trees that were burned by the wildfire in Kula, Hawaii, on Friday.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In an aerial view, search and rescue crews walk through a neighborhood, continuing to search for missing people in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Friday.

Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Lianu and Zeran Harris look on as volunteers watch truckloads of donated food and supplies depart for Lahaina in Maalaea, Maui, on Thursday, August 10. Frustrated with the apparently slow response from local government, residents in surrounding communities are collecting donated items and arranging to deliver them to the devastated neighborhoods in Lahaina.

Rick Bowmer/AP

Wildfire wreckage is seen from an aerial view in Lahaina on Thursday.

Mengshin Lin/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Volunteers stack canned goods at War Memorial Stadium in Kahului, Hawaii, on Thursday.

Evelio Contreras/CNN

Burned cars sit after a wildfire raged through Lahaina on Thursday.

Marco Garcia/Reuters

Vixay Phonxaylinkham holds his child Lana, 4, as she overheats while they await their flight to California at Kahului Airport, Hawaii on Thursday. Phonoxaylinkham, his wife, and their five children were caught in the Lahaina wildfires and survived by exiting their car and spending four hours in the ocean as the west Maui wildfires raged around them.

Claire Rush/AP

People arrive on school buses to evacuate from the Maui airport on Thursday.

Evelio Contreras/CNN

Building wreckage is seen in the aftermath of the fires that raged through Lahaina on Thursday.

Rick Bowmer/AP

Myrna Ah Hee reacts as she waits in front of an evacuation center at the War Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday in Wailuku, Hawaii. The Ah Hees were there because they were looking for her husband’s brother. Their own home in Lahaina was spared, but the homes of many of their relatives were destroyed by wildfires.

Mengshin Lin/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Puong Sui, center, talks to her daughter at War Memorial Stadium in Kahului on Thursday. Sui lost her house and belongings in Lahaina during the wildfire and is planning to fly to Las Vegas on Sunday to reunite with her family.

Ty O’Neil/AP

A wildfire burns in Kihei, Hawaii, on Wednesday, August 9.

Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

A satellite image shows an overview of wildfires in Lahaina on Wednesday.

Rick Bowmer/AP

People gather at the Kahului Airport while waiting for flights in Kahului on Wednesday.

Hawaii National Guard/Reuters

Hawaii Army National Guard CH47 Chinook helicopters perform aerial water bucket drops on the island of Maui to assist in fighting the wildfires on Wednesday.

Ku’u Kauanoe/Civil Beat/ZUMA

Residents carry their belongings in suitcases after wildfires swept through Lahaina on Wednesday.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

Passengers try to sleep on the floor of Kahului Airport while waiting for delayed and canceled flights off the island from the wildfires in Kahului on Wednesday.

Dustin Johnson/Reuters

Flames billow near Lahaina as wildfires driven by high winds destroy the historic town of Lahaina on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, search and recovery teams are using cadaver dogs to help find those missing and the increasing possibility of more deceased victims.

So far, crews have not searched inside buildings, Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said Friday. The deaths in Lahaina confirmed as of Friday afternoon likely happened outdoors as people were trying to escape flames, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green told CNN.

“Without a doubt, there will be more fatalities. We do not know, ultimately, how many will have occurred,” said Green, noting that officials should have a better idea of that within days.

As search efforts are underway, here’s the latest as of Saturday morning:

  • Thousands unhoused: The fires have displaced thousands of people, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN on Thursday. Those staying in shelters have expressed a deep sense of uncertainty, and the governor has urged people to take victims if they can. A hotline will likely be established to connect displaced residents with available rooms in homes and hotels, the governor added.
  • Lahaina road closures: After residents were allowed a brief visit to their hometown, Maui Police closed its main road. Residents disregarded access rules when visiting Lahaina, leading law enforcement to shut down entry, CNN affiliate Hawaii News Now reported. It’s not clear when public traffic will be reinstated.
  • Official updates: Communication in parts of Maui have been compromised due to severed lines, and many have reported not hearing from their loved ones in days. Maui County officials have resorted to updating the public via radio stations. They will also post new information on the county’s website and social media pages.
  • Disaster response under review: Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez will lead a comprehensive review of officials’ response to the catastrophic wildfires, her office said Friday. “My Department is committed to understanding the decisions that were made before and during the wildfires and to sharing with the public the results of this review,” Lopez said in a statement.
  • Emergency sirens: News of the review comes as state records show Maui’s warning sirens were not activated, and the emergency communications with residents was largely limited to mobile phones and broadcasters at a time when most power and cell service was already cut.
  • Water and power issues: Local authorities have cautioned residents not to drink the water in Upper Kula and Lahaina areas because it is unsafe. “Instead of tap water, customers are advised to use only bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth, making ice and preparing food,” Maui County said Friday. Power restorations were underway Friday, with about 5,000 outages still active, according to the tracking site PowerOutage.us, a significant improvement from about 11,000 a day prior.

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While it’s too early to determine the full scope of widespread destruction, the losses are estimated in the billions of dollars.

Maui County experienced $5.52 billion in “capital exposure,” which is the estimated cost to rebuild following damage by the Lahaina Fire, according to an updated damage assessment from the Pacific Disaster Center and FEMA on Saturday.

A total of 2,207 structures were damaged or destroyed and 2,170 acres have burned as a result of the Lahaina Fire, the assessment said.

As the town is closed to residents, one couple told CNN they were not allowed in Friday to see their home.

“The police won’t let us go to our home. We lived in the same house for 50 years since 1971,” Steve Dolan told CNN.

“I wanted to go down there, see if anything’s left, but they won’t let us,” he said. “We’ll deal with it and we’ll wait a week or two and we can go see what’s left and start from scratch and rebuild.”

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