Updated Aug 16, 2023 - Science

Death toll in Hawai'i's worst-ever fires surpasses 100

 A view of destruction from Hwy 30 days after a fierce wildfire destroyed the town.

A view of destruction from Highway 30 on Monday, days after a fierce wildfire destroyed the historic town of Lahaina. Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Teams responding to Hawai'i's historic wildfires have "recovered 106 human remains," per a Maui County statement Tuesday evening local time.

The big picture: The fires that razed much of western Maui and destroyed most of the island's historic town of Lahaina are the most destructive on record in Hawai'i. The Lahaina fire is the deadliest U.S. wildfire since 1918 and many people are still missing.

State of play: One week on from the blazes igniting on Maui, Oahu and the Big Island, Maui County officials said crews have completed surveys of 32% of burn areas as they work to identify the remains of those killed.

  • The remains recovered are awaiting identification and officials have obtained 41 DNA samples from family members of missing people, according to statements posted to Maui County's website.  
  • The first people confirmed to have lost their lives in the fire were identified on Tuesday as Robert Dyckman, 74, and Buddy Jantoc, 79, both from Lahaina, per a Maui County statement.
  • Maui County officials said the Lahaina fire that's destroyed an estimated 2,170 acres was 85% contained as of Tuesday.
  • As for Maui's other blazes, the Upcountry/Kula fire was 60% contained and the Pulehu/Kihei fire was at 100% containment, but firefighters were "staying vigilant for flare-ups." The Puʻukoliʻi/Kaʻanapali fire was extinguished.
A screenshot of a tweet by Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, saying: "After direct discussions with Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen, the Lāhainā bypass road will open starting this evening, at 6 p.m. to residents, first responders, and employees of West Maui."
Photo: Hawai'i Gov. Josh Green/X

What they're saying: Gov. Josh Green said in a video address Tuesday afternoon local time announcing that the death toll had increased from 99 the previous day: "We are heartsick that we've had such loss."

  • President Biden said earlier Tuesday he would visit Hawai'i with first lady Jill Biden "as soon as we can," once he's sure they won't "disrupt the ongoing recovery efforts."
  • Green said this would happen "in the coming weeks" after "the heartbreaking work is done on the ground finding those we've lost."

Context: Extreme winds from Hurricane Dora helped spread the fires after they ignited last Tuesday as the storm passed hundreds of miles to the southwest.

Go deeper: Hawaiian Electric slapped with 3 lawsuits after deadly wildfires

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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