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UPDATE: 9:50 p.m.
Maui County officials said 58% of the five-square-mile burn area of Lahaina has been searched for victims of the Aug. 8 firestorm.
Earlier today, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen told CNN that crews combing through the ruins of Lahaina have searched about 45% of the affected area.
The death toll remained 111 today, but officials have warned that they expect that number to climb with about 1,000 people considered missing or unaccounted for.
The Maui Police Department identified Donna Gomes, 71, of Lahaina as the sixth fire victim. Next of kin has been notified.
All six are seniors and Lahaina residents: Melva Benjamin, 71; Virginia Dofa, 90; Alfredo Galinato, 79; Robert Dyckman, 74; and Buddy Jantoc, 79.
Starting Friday, the Family Assistance Center is moving from its current location at the Kahului Community Center to the Hyatt Regency at 200 Nohea Kai Drive in Kaanapali, according to Maui County officials.
The center was set up a week ago to collect DNA samples from those searching for family members.
Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya has resigned effective immediately, Mayor Richard Bissen’s office announced.
Andaya cited health reasons and Bissen has accepted the resignation, the county announcement said.
“Given the gravity of the crisis we are facing, my team and I will be placing someone in this key position as quickly as possible and I look forward to making that announcement soon,” Bissen said.
Andaya came under heavy criticism, and international media attention, Wednesday when he said he did not regret the decision to not activate warning sirens as the wildfire flames that eventually destroyed Lahaina began to threaten the historic town.
Responding to reporters’ questions at the news conference in Wailuku, Andaya said he did not regret the decision not to sound the sirens because in Hawaii sirens are used primarily for tsunamis, not for brush fires, and because the public is trained to seek higher ground when a siren goes off.
“Had we sounded the siren that night, we were afraid that people would have gone mauka, and if that were the case, they would have gone into the fire,” he said. Wednesday was the first time Andaya made a public statement about MEMA’s actions during the Aug. 8 crises.
Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said this afternoon that crews combing through the ruins of Lahaina looking for victims of the Aug. 8 firestorm have searched about 45% of the burned-out, 5-square-mile area.
In an interview with CNN today, Bissen said the number of missing, which has been estimated above 1,000, is still “fluid” and that he was “not exactly sure” of the ultimate tally.
He thanked the FBI for assisting in the search for the missing by analyzing cell phone data, and he said over 200 personnel with 40 cadaver-detecting dogs were searching the rubble.
Asked about the number of missing children, Bissen said he did not want to speculate.
The mayor also avoided answering a question on whether he agreed with Herman Andaya, the Maui Emergency Management Agency administrator, who on Wednesday defended the decision not to activate sirens as flames and smoke began to threaten Lahaina on Aug. 8.
He said the county will cooperate with a state Attorney General’s office review of the wildfire response, and that the focus has to remain on the families and residents who lost loved ones and homes.
As of this morning, the confirmed death toll from the disaster remained at 111.
On Wednesday, Bissen announced that fiscal year 2023-24 property taxes will be waived for improved properties destroyed in the wildfires in Upcountry, Kihei and Lahaina.
The county explained today that improved properties were not vacant land (prior to the disaster) and have a record on mauipropertytax.com under “Improvement Information” or “Commercial Improvement Information.” The properties have either a residential structure or a commercial structure, officials said.
The Department of Finance, which handles property taxes, is compiling a list of improved properties, by address and tax map key, that were “completely destroyed” by the fires.
Refunds will be issued by Oct. 31 to any of the affected property owners who already paid their taxes before the fires, county officials said.
One of nine patients from Maui admitted to Straub Medical Center’s Burn Unit in Honolulu since the Aug. 8 Lahaina wildfire died just before midnight Tuesday, according to the Honolulu Department of the Medical Examiner.
He was identified as Kirk Carter, 44, of Lahaina.
Maui County officials on Wednesday set the death toll from the wildfire at 111, with many more victims expected to be recovered as the search area expands beyond the 38% of the 5-square-mile disaster zone already covered by the 40 cadaver dogs flown to Maui by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Maui Police Department has named five of the dead whose families have been notified, all of them Lahaina residents: Melva Benjamin, 71; Virginia Dofa, 90; Alfredo Galinato, 79; Robert Dyckman, 74; and Buddy Jantoc, 79.
The death toll from the Aug. 8 Lahaina wildfire climbed to 111 Wednesday and efforts to find and identify more victims continue today with more than 40 search teams with cadaver-detecting dogs working in the leveled historic town.
Over 1,000 people remain missing or unaccounted for on Maui, according to Gov. Josh Green.
Maui County said today that the road to Lahaina remains open to all motorists from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, while late-night access from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. is limited to West Maui residents, first responders and West Maui employees. The Maui Police Department will cite and tow vehicles parked at the Lahaina Bypass Road, where there are no-parking signs, officials said.
As of Wednesday night, the Maui Fire Department said the Lahaina wildfire is 89% contained, having burned an estimated 2,170 acres and destroying more than 2,000 structures.
In other MFD brushfire updates, the Olinda fire is 85% contained with 1,081 acres charred; the Kula fire is 80% contained after burning 202 acres; and the Pulehu/Kihei fire remains 100% contained.
There are no active threats at this time, MFD said.
Hawaiian Electric reported Wednesday that power has been restored to more than 80% of customers who have been without electricity since the disaster, including to the Lahaina Civic Center.
About 2,000 customers in West Maui were still without electricity as of Wednesday. The company has over 400 employees and contractors from Maui, Oahu, Hawaii Island, Molokai and Lanai working to restore power to West Maui where hundreds of utility poles were damaged or destroyed by the Aug. 8-9 wind and fire storm.
Emergency shelters remaining open today are: Hannibal Tavares Community Center, in Pukalani; War Memorial Gymnasium, Wailuku; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kahului; Kings Cathedral Church, Kahului; Grace Bible Church, Kahului; and South Maui Community Park Gymnasium, Kihei. All six shelters have an internet connection.
Officials said county emergency supply distribution sites include the Lahaina Gateway Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Napili Plaza around the clock for food, water and other needs and supplies.
Fuels/Minit Stop on Keawe Street in Lahaina, Shell on Kapunakea Street in Lahaina, Texaco Gas Station in Honokowai and Kahana Gateway Shell are open for gasoline, Maui County said.