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14 Aug, 2023 05:21

US wildfires deadliest in modern history

Authorities expect the death toll to rise as rescue efforts continue
US wildfires deadliest in modern history

Fatalities from wildfires on the Hawaiian Island of Maui climbed to 93 on Sunday, making them the deadliest to grip the US in more than a century, according to the National Protection Association.

The inferno that raged throughout last week caused billions of dollars in damage and practically wiped out the island's historic resort of Lahaina. 

"This is the largest natural disaster we’ve ever experienced," Hawaii Governor Josh Green said at a news conference, "It’s going to also be a natural disaster that’s going to take an incredible amount of time to recover from."

Around 2,200 buildings have been destroyed in West Maui, with damage costs approaching $6 billion, the governor said. 

Authorities have cautioned however that only a small percentage of the search area has been covered by rescue teams so far. 

"We’ve got an area that we have to contain that is at least 5 square miles, and it is full of our loved ones," Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said on Saturday, noting that the number of dead is likely to grow and "none of us really know the size of it yet."

As of Sunday, six fires were still burning on Maui and Hawaii's Big Island, but the Lahaina fire was 85% contained.