The death toll in thereached 110 Wednesday — and was expected to rise considerably — as many desperate residents searched for missing family members in the wreckage of the fire that an estimated 80% of the historic town of Lahaina.
FEMA spokesperson Adam Weintraub told reporters Wednesday that the number of people unaccounted for is estimated to be between 1,100 and 1,300. People across the Hawaiian island have been asked to provide DNA samples in an effort to identify human remains.
Only two of the victims have so far been publicly identified, 79-year-old Buddy Jantoc and 74-year-old Robert Dyckman.
Dozens of FEMA search and rescue teams with cadaver dogs continue to methodically comb for human remains. At least 38% of the Lahaina fire burn area had been searched, local officials said Wednesday.
Lahaina Bypass Road, the main thoroughfare in and out of Lahaina, was reopened Tuesday night for the first time since the wildfires broke out last week, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green announced, making it easier for residents and emergency responders to access the city.
Michael Richter has been on a days-long search to find his stepfather.
“I have run into a lot of people that I understand are tired,” Richter told CBS News. “I’m tired too. I haven’t slept in six days. I just want to identify his body and put him at rest.”
Joe Schilling was going to his friend Corie Bluh’s home when the fires began raging around him.
“He was texting me that now there are four houses burning, and then cars exploding on the road,” Bluh told CBS News. “I said, ‘Try and get out.’ He said, ‘We can’t get out. We can’t see, we can’t breathe.'”
Blue believes Schilling may have died in the fire trying to help others evacuate, but his remains have not been found.
The Tone and Takafua family found four family members — including a 7-year-old girl — inside a burned-out car.
Some who have been reported missing have been found. Weintraub said Wednesday that about 60 people sheltering on a single property during the fire who survived had initially been listed as unaccounted for.
The Hawaii attorney general’s office has launched an investigation into the local government response leading up to and after the wildfires erupted on Aug. 8. CBS News has learned that Herman Andaya, chief of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, had no background in disaster response. Maui Now reported in 2017 that he was hired over 40 other qualified applicants.
Survivors said most residents were not evacuated, and many waited days for help to arrive. None of the island’s warning sirens sounded for evacuation, and with power knocked out and no television or radio, residents reported receiving no text alerts.
FEMA now has about 600 personnel on the island to aid in search and recovery efforts, said Marcus Coleman, director of the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, on Wednesday.
FEMA has approved more than $2.3 million in assistance to more than 1,300 households, Coleman said.
Green said Tuesday night that about 500 hotel rooms were made available, with 331 displaced residents already staying in those rooms. The governor added that the state had also set up an Airbnb program with 1,000 available rooms or houses that will be covered by FEMA for use by both evacuees and first responders.
President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are scheduled to visit Maui on Monday, he said.
— Lilia Luciano and Jonathan Vigliotti contributed to this report.