Washington, Aug 10 (EFE).- Firefighters have discovered 36 bodies as hurricane-boosted wildfires continued to rage across the Hawaiian island of Maui, the local authorities said on Thursday.
“As the firefighting efforts continue, 36 total fatalities have been discovered amid the active Lahaina fire,” a press release from the county said. “No other details are available at this time.”
However, the statement did not clarify if the 36 dead included six fatalities that the authorities reported on Wednesday due to the fast-moving devastating fires, which have caused the displacement of thousands of people.
The flames have not yet been brought under control, prompting concern among local authorities that the number of fatalities may rise further.
“Firefighting crews were continuing to battle a fire that burned multiple structures and brush in Lahaina, with four helicopters launched to assist in the firefighting efforts,” another statement from the county said.
Close to 100 firefighters have been on duty, including 11 from state airport firefighting and rescue personnel.
Hawaii Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, who is heading up the emergency response while Gov. Josh Green is out of the state, has signed two emergency declarations thus far.
The first was inked on Tuesday that activated the Hawaii National Guard, while the second came on Wednesday and discouraged all non-essential air travel to Maui.
“This is an unprecedented disaster as an indirect result of Hurricane Dora passing just south of our islands. It is truly devastating, and my heart goes out to the residents of Maui and all those impacted,” Luke wrote on Wednesday.
“This proclamation is to discourage travel to the affected areas so we can prioritize our scarce resources for Maui’s residents who desperately need it.”
While Luke was addressing a press conference in Honolulu on Wednesday, Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen connected remotely and reported that six people had died due to the wildfires.
“We are still in a search and rescue mode, and so I don’t know what will happen to that number,” he said.
More than 2,100 people are being housed at shelters on different parts of Maui while firefighters battle the blazes, Bissen said.
The largest fire whipped through the historic town of Lahaina, a popular tourist destination, forcing many inhabitants to flee into the ocean to escape the flames and smoke.
They were later rescued by National Guard troops.
The wildfires also are affecting Kula, a mountainous residential area of Maui, as well as the Kohala peninsula of the state’s Big Island, also known as Hawaii island.
As part of Tuesday’s declaration, Luke said the disaster emergency relief period would continue through Aug. 15. EFE