Maui wildfire becomes deadliest in the US in more than a century as death toll reaches 93

The updated death toll comes as Hawaii Gov. Josh Green says he expects the number of deceased to rise.

Published: August 13, 2023 7:32am

Updated: August 13, 2023 7:36am

At least 93 people are dead after a wildfire ripped through the western portion of the Hawaiian island of Maui this past week, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century, officials said. 

Emergency workers are going through ruins with axes and cadaver dogs, marking areas that have remains with a bright orange X during an initial search, according to The Associated Press.

The updated death toll Saturday comes as Hawaii Gov. Josh Green says he expects the number of deceased to rise as cadaver dogs have scoured just 3% of the search area.

"It will certainly be the worst natural disaster that Hawaii ever faced," he said as he visited the centuries-old town of Lahaina in Maui on Saturday. "We can only wait and support those who are living. Our focus now is to reunite people when we can and get them housing and get them health care, and then turn to rebuilding."

Just two of the 89 victims had been identified so far, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said. Identifying the victims is extremely difficult because officials "pick up the remains and they fall apart," he also said.

"When we find our family and our friends, the remains that we’re finding is through a fire that melted metal. We have to do rapid DNA to identify them. Every one of these 89 are John and Jane Does," Pelletier also said. 

At least 2,200 buildings were damaged or destroyed in West Maui, 86% of which were residential, per Green. The estimated damage across the island is $6 billion.

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on Twitter or Instagram.

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