Fires in Hawaii: the human toll exceeds 100 dead, the symbol of a dilapidated America

Aviva Fried with AFP / Photo credit: PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP

The death toll from the Hawaii fires, the deadliest in more than a century in the United States, now exceeds 100 dead, authorities said on Tuesday, who are still struggling to find victims and now have a mobile morgue on the island of Maui. “101 lives have now been lost,” said the governor of the archipelago, Josh Green, during a television announcement on Tuesday evening. “We are heartbroken by such a loss.”

Hundreds of people still missing

Rescuers and sniffer dogs scouring the rubble of the near-blaze town of Lahaina on the island of Maui still have plenty of ground to cover. They only examined just over a quarter of the area, he said. Authorities fear the death toll will rise dramatically and have already warned it could double.

Hundreds of people are still missing. Among them, some are gradually located by their relatives as communications are restored on Maui, but others will inevitably join the ranks of the victims of the tragedy.

The alert system has not been triggered

There are many perplexing details in this tragedy. The warning system was not triggered, the telephone network stopped working immediately, and the water ran out at the most crucial moment, as the New York Times Ross Hart, a Lahaina resident who was trying to save his home from the flames. “We were fighting, we thought we had the upper hand, we were keeping the flames off the property. And then more water.”

Electricity pylons are said to have fallen on the dry brushwood

The water distribution system, which was too old, did not hold up. Another infrastructure defect is undoubtedly at the origin of the disaster: electricity pylons would have fallen on the dry brushwood. In Hawaii, as in most US states, power lines are not buried, due to cost. It takes between two and three million dollars per kilometer to bury a high voltage line.

Between red tape and difficulty of access to Lahaina, state aid has been slow to arrive. Residents would have resorted to looting, as evidenced on a local channel Barrett Procell, a resident who lost everything. “If your kids are hungry, the government isn’t there for you, the police won’t let the supplies through, for days and days…Desperate, desperate measures,” he says.

So many problems which have further aggravated matters and which are no match for a country which is the world’s leading economic power.

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