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Hawaii’s governor warns that more people could be found dead following wildfires

-Editorial

Hawaii Governor Josh Green, M.D., returned from Maui and issued the fifth Emergency Proclamation (EP) relating to the ongoing devastation created by the wildfires on Maui and in Hawaiʻi Counties.

The fifth proclamation suspends additional laws to facilitate emergency response, recovery, and rebuilding. It confirms that health care facilities and professionals engaging in emergency response are immune from civil liability during the proclamation period, except for willful misconduct, gross negligence, or recklessness. 

It also allows pharmacists to refill prescriptions for people directly affected by the wildfire emergency with up to a 30-day supply, even when the pharmacist is unable to obtain refill authorization from the prescriber.

It also lifts the $10 million cap on expenditures from the Major Disaster Fund to respond to this emergency and discourages nonessential travel to West Maui to free up accommodations for displaced residents and emergency workers.

The fifth proclamation supersedes the August 10, 2023, fourth proclamation relating to wildfires. The disaster emergency relief period shall commence immediately and continue through August 31.

As of August 12, 2023, there were 93 confirmed deaths, and at least 1,000 other individuals were unaccounted for due to the Lāhainā fire on Maui. Only two victims have been identified. The death toll in West Maui made it the deadliest wildfire and natural disaster ever recorded in Hawaiʻi since statehood.

The main Maui wildfire burned much of the community of Lāhainā, where more than 2,200 structures were damaged or destroyed, including much of the downtown Lāhainā Historic District centered on Front Street. 96% of burned structures were residential. The Lāhainā Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi for 35 years, suffered extensive fire damage.

The fires prompted mass evacuations of thousands of residents and visitors from Lāhaina, Kāʻanapali, Kīhei, and Kula. The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that they had rescued 17 people who had jumped into the sea in Lāhainā to escape the fires. As of August 12, more than 1,400 people on Maui remained in shelters.

An estimated 11,000 people flew out of Maui via Kahului Airport on August 9, 2023.

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