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Hawaii is counting the cost after deadly wildfire nears 100 casualties

Hawaii is counting the cost after deadly wildfire nears 100 casualties

The fire seen from the distance when it started on the 8th of August. Photo credit: Michael Johnson via Flickr.

By Anders Lorenzen 

A wildfire that broke out in Hawaii last week has so far killed 93 people making it the worst natural disaster to ever hit the island state. In addition to the 93 casualties, a 1,000 people have been misplaced.

The fires started on the 8th of August, predominantly on the island of Maui and in the town of Lahaina.

Officials have estimated that the cost to rebuild Lahaina to be $5.5 billion, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with more than 2,200 structures damaged or destroyed and more than 2,100 acres, a figure that would most likely go up.

Hawaii Governor Josh Green likened the burnt-out city of Lahaina to a “war zone” after the fast-moving blaze engulfed the northwest coast of Maui on Tuesday, leveling much of the historic resort town and scorching nearly everything in its path.

And days after the inferno, crews of firefighters were still battling flare-ups, and cadaver dogs were sifting through the town’s charred ruins in search of victims as survivors and officials grappled with the scale of the disaster.

Climate change 

In early August 2023, a high-pressure system remained north of the Hawaiian Islands, and later became Hurricane Dora which eventually intensified into a Category 4 hurricane. The hurricane caused strong gradient winds over the island and was a key contributor in the rapid spreading of the fires.

The typical area burned by wildfires in Hawaiʻi has increased in recent decades, almost quadrupling. Experts have blamed the increase on the spread of non-native vegetation and hotter, drier weather due to climate change. In the days prior to the fire, twenty percent of the county of Maui was experiencing moderate drought (level 1 of 4), and sixteen percent of the county was under severe drought conditions (level 2 of 4). A decrease in rainfall consistent with the predicted impacts of climate change had also been recorded in the Hawaiian islands, according to the US National Climate Assessment.

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