Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest confirmed number of fatalities in the Hawaii wildfires, per Maui County officials.
The death toll from a series of devastating wildfires in Hawaii hit 80 as of Saturday morning.
Six fires continue to burn on the islands of Maui and the Big Island, and mass evacuations are still underway over what is being called the worst natural disaster in Hawaii’s known history, NBC News reported. At least 80 people are confirmed to have died as a result of the fires, according to a statement from Maui County, the most devastating of which was centered in the historic town of Lahaina.
The Lahaina fire is now 80% contained, NBC noted, but many of the town’s most valued and cherished cultural artifacts were lost to the inferno. On Friday morning, questions started to surface over Hawaii’s siren system, which may have failed to warn Maui’s residents of the wildfire as it spread over the west side.
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“The winds that hit us in on that side of the island … in some areas, gusts were up to 80 mph, some sustained between 45 and 60-65 mph. So, everything happened so quickly,” Maui County mayor Richard Bissen told “TODAY” on Friday. “I can’t comment on whether or not the sirens sounded or not, but I know the fires came up so quickly and they spread so fast. There were some initially, when there was a smaller fire, homes were evacuated.” (RELATED: Officials Warn Wildfire Smoke May Last Through September In US)
Survivors said they never heard the sirens, NBC noted. Hawaii’s Emergency Management record did not reveal any indication that they warned residents of the fires.