The death toll from the devastating wildfire ripping through the Hawaiian island of Maui has risen to 80 as firefighters continued to battle the blazes on Friday.
“The number of fatalities is at 80,” a Maui country press statement said.
Officials anticipate the casualty count may further rise as firefighters try to contain the blaze with several people reported missing from the affected areas.
The deaths due to the inferno that erupted on Tuesday make it the deadliest natural disaster since 1959 when Hawaii became America’s 50th state.
In 1960, a tsunami claimed 61 lives in the Hawaiian town of Hilo.
However, the most devastating disaster on record to strike Hawaii was the 1946 tsunami, which left 158 people dead.
Maui country government said firefighters continued working to extinguish flare-ups and contain fires in Lahaina, Pulehu/Kihei and Upcountry Maui.
The county administration cautioned against entering the charred historic town of Lahaina, which “remains barricaded,” due to hazards, including toxic particles from smoldering areas.
In an interview with CNN on Friday afternoon, Hawaii Governor Josh Green said it might still be more than a week before authorities can comb through the charred remains of Lahaina to get an idea of the total number of victims.
More than 11,000 people were still without electricity, according to PowerOutage.US, so communications with much of the island remain difficult.
On Thursday, US President Joe Biden declared a disaster in Hawaii and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by the wildfires that began Tuesday.
Biden also ordered US National Guard and US Third Fleet personnel in Hawaii to do everything possible to assist local authorities.
Images show whole areas reduced to ashes and the Civil Air Patrol said that almost 300 structures had been hit by the fire.
Green on Thursday told CNN he estimated that “upwards of 1,700 buildings” have been destroyed.
The raging fires have affected several Hawaiian islands but Maui has suffered the worst damage.
According to the authorities, severe drought and strong winds from Hurricane Dora have caused the flames to spread much faster.
Source : La Prensa Latina