The search for hundreds of missing people continues in Hawaii, where a catastrophic wildfire has claimed at least 114 lives and destroyed thousands of homes. The fire, which started on August 8, swept through the island of Maui and ravaged the historic town of Lahaina, leaving behind a trail of ash and debris. Officials said on Monday that about 850 people are still unaccounted for, and many of them may be children who were at home while schools were closed.
The fire is the worst disaster to hit Hawaii in its history, and has drawn national attention and assistance. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visited Maui on Sunday, where they met with survivors and local officials. They also toured the damaged areas of Lahaina, where they saw charred cars, melted street signs and burned-out buildings. Biden praised the resilience of the Hawaiian people and promised to provide federal aid and support.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but authorities suspect it was sparked by strong winds that knocked down power lines. The fire spread quickly due to dry conditions and high temperatures, creating a fast-moving inferno that trapped many residents in their homes or on the roads. Some people managed to escape by boat or by swimming to the shore, while others were rescued by helicopters or firefighters.
The fire also posed a threat to the environment and wildlife, as it burned through native forests and endangered species habitats. The fire also damaged water sources and infrastructure, creating health and safety risks for the survivors. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said it is working with federal and state partners to restore essential services and provide relief supplies.
The American Red Cross said it has received more than 2,100 reunification requests from people looking for their missing loved ones. The organization is operating emergency shelters on Maui, where it is offering food, water, hygiene items and health care services. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also opened a Disaster Recovery Center on Maui, where people can apply for federal assistance and access other resources.
The recovery process is expected to be long and challenging, as many people have lost everything they owned. Some families have shared heartbreaking stories of losing their relatives in the fire, such as a teenager who died hugging his dog, or a grandmother who perished with her daughter and grandson. The community is rallying together to support each other and honor the victims, while hoping for more survivors to be found.