Lahaina wants closure. Authorities plead for patience

Lahaina, Hawaii is in the midst of recovery efforts following the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over 100 years, with authorities and the public grappling with the scale of devastation and loss.

Forensics on the scene: A federal team comprising over two dozen pathologists, forensic dentists, and coroners from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are assisting the overwhelmed Maui County coroner’s office.
* They are tasked with identifying victims amidst substantial destruction of evidence due to intense fire.
* According to Commander Frank Sebastian, leading the federal team, the task is arduous and challenging, often requiring DNA samples or dental records for identification.

First-hand accounts: Veterans of disaster response teams, including those who have tackled other deadly wildfires and Hurricane Katrina, describe the Lahaina wildfire response as “devastating”.
* Sgt. Manuel Soco, a Maui native whose family members lost their homes in the fire, highlights the resilience, high morale, and mutual support of his U.S. Army search and extraction team.
* Lt. Ryan Edgar of the 93rd CBRN Enterprise Response Force recognizes the community’s need for closure and commits to identifying as many victims as possible.

Local response: Locals are dealing with significant emotional and logistical challenges, whilst authorities plead for patience due to the meticulous, time-consuming nature of the recovery effort.
* Lahaina resident Curt Hanthorn expresses frustration over blame being assigned to various parties on social media. He stresses the rapid progression of the fire, likening it to a “blowtorch”.

By the numbers: Out of 115 known fatalities, less than half have been identified. Roughly 95% of the burned area around Lahaina has been searched with ongoing efforts in larger buildings.
* Recovery teams, like Sebastian’s, have been working non-stop for approximately two weeks trying to recover bodies from the wildfire’s aftermath.

View original article on NPR

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