Washington, Aug 17 (EFE).- The death toll due to the devastating wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui has reached 110, Governor Josh Green said Wednesday.
“We are a little more heartbroken because I have to report that more of our loved ones are deceased. (At least) 110 individuals have been confirmed deceased,” Green told reporters.
The governor said recovery efforts continued eight days after the blaze ravaged the island, and rescue teams have searched around 38 percent of the worst affected area on Maui island.
Nearly 200 search and rescue workers and dozens of cadaver canines – dogs specially trained to smell and locate human remains – continued combing through the ashes of homes and businesses charred by the wildfire.
Federal Emergency Management Agency head Deanne Criswell said at a White House briefing on Wednesday that at least 40 canine teams would be soon operating on Maui.
She said FEMA worked meticulously in the affected areas to locate missing people while respecting local cultural sensitivities.
Criswell said more cadaver dogs were required because the heat and the difficult terrain, including glass and other debris on the ground, make frequent rest a necessity.
Thirty forensic experts from the Department of Health and Human Services are now in Maui, and others from the Defense Department were expected to arrive soon to help identify the dead.
Seven of the deceased have been identified, while autopsies were performed on 35 bodies.
Identifying the dead is getting complex, as remains found are unrecognizable, and fingerprints are rarely found.
Investigators will now have to develop DNA profiles and find matches with samples from relatives.
Office of Response of the Administration for Preparedness and Strategic Response (ASPR) head Jonathan Greene told reporters on Tuesday that the US government had sent a forensic team to Hawaii to assist in identifying the victims.
Meanwhile, scrutiny of utility companies over their alleged negligence in the tragedy is growing.
US media outlet NBC reported on Wednesday a lawsuit was filed against the utility company in the archipelago, accusing it of negligence for not shutting down the electrical system before the strong winds that hit the islands last week.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are scheduled to travel on Monday to Maui and meet with emergency workers, survivors, and federal, state, and local officials.
“(Biden) is going to be able to bring hope and he is going to speak with the governor and the state’s first lady and talk to survivors and hear their stories,” Criswell said. “And it is that level of hope that I think is going to really be a positive impact on this community.” EFE