Los Angeles: At least 53 people have been confirmed dead in the devastating hurricane-driven wildfires in Hawaii’s Maui Island, authorities said on Thursday.
“As firefighting efforts continue, 17 additional fatalities have been confirmed today amid the active Lahaina fire. This brings the death toll to 53 people,” Maui County wrote on the county’s official website.
The death toll was 36 earlier in the day. Strong winds from Hurricane Dora were to blame for the deadly wildfires, destroying parts of Lahaina, a tourist spot on Maui Island.
Officials warned the death toll could grow even higher.
The wildfire that caused widespread damage in Lahaina town was reported to be 80 percent contained this morning after the fire department reported making progress in fighting the Lahaina fire and fires in Pulehu and Upcountry Maui, said county officials in an earlier press release.
Officials said that the status of all three fires remained unchanged as of Thursday afternoon.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday morning approved a major disaster declaration for Hawaii in the wake of the devastating hurricane-driven wildfires.
Hawaii Governor Josh Green is on Maui to survey the damage. In a video speech at the scene in Lahaina, Green said that “over a thousand buildings” have likely been destroyed.
“This is a tragic day for everyone in Hawaii and the nation. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and the survivors suffering through the deadliest natural disaster the state has seen in generations,” he said in an earlier statement.