Maui Wildfire Survivors Face Power Outages and Poor Cell Service as Recovery Teams Work to Identify Victims

by Madison Thomas
Wildfire aftermath

Residents who managed to survive the devastating wildfires on Maui are grappling with challenges such as sporadic electricity and unreliable mobile network coverage while they attempt to rebuild their shattered lives. In the meantime, teams of dedicated individuals are tirelessly striving to locate the deceased and confirm their identities.

As the death toll has already reached 106, an additional mobile morgue unit, along with more coroners, arrived in Hawaii on Tuesday to assist in the somber task of sifting through remains. The governor has cautioned that an upcoming storm could further complicate the search and recovery efforts.

A week following the destructive wildfire that virtually razed the historic Lahaina town, communication on the island remains arduous. Some individuals have resorted to walking periodically to a seawall where phone signals are strongest, just to make calls. In a novel approach, a single-engine airplane has been flying low along the coast, using a loudspeaker to disseminate information about water and supply distribution points.

Numerous people are currently housed in shelters, hotel rooms, Airbnb accommodations, or with friends and family. Despite the power company having restored electricity to over 10,000 customers, around 2,000 homes and businesses remain without power as of Tuesday night, as stated by Maui County. Additionally, the fire has resulted in water contamination across various areas.

Victoria Martocci, who lost her scuba diving business and a boat due to the disaster, intends to visit her storage unit to secure documents and keepsakes given to her by a friend whose house was consumed by flames. Martocci expresses her intention to safeguard these items on behalf of her friend.

In a grim update, the county has revealed the identities of two victims: Robert Dyckman, 74, and Buddy Jantoc, 79, both residents of Lahaina. They are the initial among five victims who have been successfully identified thus far.

Teams aided by specially trained dogs are working urgently to locate and secure remains, according to Gov. Josh Green, in anticipation of potential storms forecasted for the upcoming weekend.

Ironically, the governor has expressed a desire for rain, despite recognizing that it could complicate recovery efforts. Green emphasizes the current race against time to conclude recovery operations, as adverse weather conditions would hinder the process of determining the full extent of the loss.

Approximately 32% of the scorched area has been scoured by teams employing cadaver dogs, as reported by Maui County. Governor Green has issued a warning that more bodies could potentially be discovered, as these wildfires have already become the deadliest in the United States in over a century.

Governor Green has also disclosed that power cutoffs during storms are being contemplated as a precautionary measure. This comes after the local power utility faced criticism for leaving power on during the passage of a hurricane, causing sparks that ignited the parched region.

Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc. President and CEO Shelee Kimura has noted the complexity of decisions to cut power, taking into account considerations such as the impact on individuals dependent on medical equipment and concerns regarding water pump functionality.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier has issued a renewed appeal for families with missing relatives to provide DNA samples, an effort to aid in identification. Up to this point, 41 samples have been submitted, resulting in 13 DNA profiles obtained from remains.

Federal authorities have dispatched a mobile morgue unit comprised of coroners, pathologists, and technicians to Hawaii for the purpose of identifying the deceased. The unit is equipped with 22 tons of supplies and equipment, including mortuary examination tables and X-ray machines. Johnathan Greene, a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledges the challenging nature of the mission and underscores the importance of patience given the scope of the tragedy.

Governor Green has shared a heart-wrenching detail that children are among the casualties, citing the smaller sizes of the bodies. He describes some of the scenes being searched as overwhelming, beyond what can be comprehended from a human perspective.

The fire that swept through Lahaina last week left nearly every building in the town of 13,000 in ruins. The county reports that this fire has been brought under 85% control. Another blaze referred to as the Upcountry fire is currently 75% contained as of Tuesday evening.

The Lahaina fire has resulted in approximately $3.2 billion in insured property losses, according to estimates by disaster and risk modeling company Karen Clark & Company. This calculation does not include damage to uninsured property. The firm further specifies that over 2,200 buildings have been damaged or destroyed, with approximately 3,000 structures sustaining damage from fire, smoke, or both.

President Joe Biden has announced plans to visit Hawaii alongside First Lady Jill Biden as soon as possible, with the intention of offering support, but not to disrupt ongoing recovery and cleanup efforts. During a separate event, President Biden assures that all necessary resources will be provided to aid in the recovery.

Kekoa Lansford, a resident of Lahaina, played a heroic role in rescuing people as the flames engulfed the town. He is now focused on gathering survivors’ accounts to piece together a chronological record of the events. Lansford poignantly describes the scene as resembling a cinematic depiction of hell, with fire and death everywhere.

(Note: This paraphrased version maintains the key points and content of the original text while using different phrasing and sentence structure.)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Wildfire aftermath

What challenges are survivors of the Maui wildfires facing?

Survivors of the Maui wildfires are contending with difficulties such as intermittent power, unreliable cell service, and damaged communication infrastructure.

How are recovery teams working to identify the deceased?

Recovery teams are laboring to locate and identify the victims of the wildfires through the use of cadaver dogs and other methods.

What impact has the wildfire had on communication on the island?

Communication on the island remains difficult due to the destruction caused by the wildfire. Some survivors are walking to specific areas with better cell reception, while others are relying on unconventional methods like using loudspeakers on airplanes.

What efforts are being made to assist survivors and restore services?

Thousands of people are being housed in shelters, hotel rooms, and other accommodations. Additionally, power companies are working to restore electricity, and federal officials have sent resources like mobile morgue units to aid in identifying the deceased.

How severe is the damage caused by the wildfires?

The wildfires have left a significant trail of destruction, with numerous buildings damaged or destroyed. The Lahaina fire alone caused about $3.2 billion in insured property losses, according to estimates.

What challenges does adverse weather pose to recovery efforts?

Adverse weather, such as potential storms, could complicate recovery efforts by hindering search and identification operations. The rain could further delay the process of determining the extent of loss and identifying victims.

What support is being offered by the government and other entities?

The government and organizations are providing support in terms of resources, personnel, and supplies. President Joe Biden has expressed his intention to visit the area and provide assistance.

How are survivors coping with the loss of their belongings?

Survivors are facing the challenge of rebuilding their lives, including retrieving important documents and cherished keepsakes that were lost in the disaster.

What is the significance of DNA samples in this situation?

DNA samples are being collected from families with missing relatives to aid in identifying the deceased. So far, 41 samples have been submitted, leading to the successful extraction of 13 DNA profiles from remains.

How does the wildfire rank in terms of its impact?

The wildfires on Maui are already among the deadliest in the U.S. in over a century, causing significant loss of life and destruction of property.

More about Wildfire aftermath

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FoodieExplorer August 16, 2023 - 5:42 pm

it’s devastatin’, those poor souls. storms comin’ too? ain’t that just rough. big props to them recovery teams, tough job.

Jay123 August 16, 2023 - 11:21 pm

survivors facin’ crazy hard times, no power, weak cell signal, tryna pick up the pieces after the fires. tough stuff.

Sk8erGurl August 17, 2023 - 4:09 am

whoa, like, it’s so sad – the town burned down? those wildfires are total nightmares. hope they catch a break with that storm tho.

SunnyDaze August 17, 2023 - 5:21 am

oh man, readin’ ’bout them fires in Maui, it’s just heartbreakin’. them recovery folks workin’ round the clock, brave souls.

BeachLover27 August 17, 2023 - 5:46 am

can’t even imagine how hard it must be, no power, can’t call fam, just wantin’ normalcy back. kudos to all helpin’ out, you rock!

MountainHiker August 17, 2023 - 11:42 am

seriously, these wildfires, power cuts, phones not workin’ – it’s like nature’s gone wild. Thoughts with ’em folks out there, real heroes.


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