Maui fires: Search for missing is the focus with death toll now 96

(NBC) – Retired Maj. Jeff Hickman, a spokesperson for Hawaii’s Department of Defense, said on NBC’s “TODAY” show Monday that search and response efforts are ramping up and Maui will soon be heading into recovery phase — “and that’s going to be the longest phase yet.”

He said the number of casualties will likely rise above the latest count of 96.

Teams of cadaver dogs have surveyed just 3% of the area to be searched on devastated Maui, Police Chief John Pelletier has said.

At a press conference over the weekend, Pelletier said: “3%, that’s what’s been searched with the dogs, 3%,” referring to search teams with cadaver dogs that arrived in Maui on Saturday and were scouring the areas devastated by last week’s wildfires.

“For the first few days, we had done searches of the streets and the cars in the area, but we couldn’t enter any structures,” Pelletier told NBC News. “My police officers are trained to go chase bad guys, respond to robberies, take reports. But they are not trained to enter shouldering structures to go look for human remains.”

Jeremy Greenberg, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Response and Recovery (FEMA), shared a breakdown of what’s been done so far in Maui.

FEMA has a permanent logistics distribution center in Hawaii and immediately after the incident occurred, started moving commodities such as food and water, protective masks, shelter equipment into Maui to support the state of Hawaii,” he said on MSNBC Monday.

FEMA has over 250 personnel on the ground with 50 to 60 working in shelters and with survivors to get them registered for FEMA assistance, he said, which will help those who have lost their homes.

“I know that this is just the first step in a difficult recovery process,” Greenberg said.

He noted that the fast-moving nature of the blazes that erupted in the late hour posed challenges to first responders.

“There’ll be a long term recovery aspect to this certainly but that’s why FEMA and the entire federal government are working with the state to prioritize getting everyone who’s impacted by this the assistance they need.”

For FEMA Assistance contact (800) 621-3362 or go to FEMA’s website.

How you can help

Hawaii officials say the best way to assist Maui wildfire victims is to send monetary donations.

Here’s a list of credible relief organizations accepting donations:

Hawaii Community Foundation

Gov. Josh Green shared a link to donations to the foundation’s “Maui Strong” fund on Aug. 10. The fund aims to provide community resilience with resources for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

American Red Cross of Hawaii

The American Red Cross’s donations will help those displaced by the wildfire find safe shelters where they can get information, eat a hot meal, charge their phone, pick up relief supplies and get health services.

Aloha United Way

Aloha United Way, a nonprofit organization based in Honolulu, has created the Maui Fire Relief Fund with donations going directly toward efforts that support victims of the fires.

Maui Humane Society

The Maui Humane Society is accepting donations on its website and on Facebook to help feed and care for displaced pets, many of whom need medical treatment.

Read our full list here.

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Taylar Ansures is a producer and reporter for NBC5 News. Taylar is from Redding, California and went to California State University, Chico. After graduating, she joined KRCR News Channel 7 in Redding as a morning producer. She moved to Southern Oregon in 2022 to be closer to family and became KTVL News 10’s digital producer. Taylar is currently finishing her Master's Degree in Professional Creative Writing through the University of Denver. In her free time, Taylar frequents independent bookstores and explores hiking trails across Southern Oregon and Northern California.
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