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Main Street in Lahaina reopens, showing the devastation caused by Maui’s wildfires | CBC News

US President Joe Biden and Jill Biden will travel to Hawaii on Monday to survey the devastation caused by deadly wildfires that burned much of the Maui resort of Lahaina last week, killing at least 110 people.

Biden will be looking at the damage firsthand and meeting with first responders, survivors, and federal, state and local officials, the White House said in a statement.

“I remain committed to providing the people of Hawaii with everything they need to recover from this disaster,” Biden said in a post on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green has warned the death toll could double.

The inferno spread rapidly from grasslands outside of town into Lahaina last Tuesday, taking people by surprise and charring an 8-square-mile area of ​​the city in a matter of hours. The fire destroyed 2,200 buildings and caused an estimated $5.5 billion in damage, officials said.

In Lahaina, local officials Wednesday reopened a major road through the city for the first time in days, responding to local displeasure.

“We felt it was necessary after seven days to start restoring some psychological normality to people traveling,” Green said in a news conference on Wednesday, repeating his request that people travel only when necessary.

The highway, which bypasses the charred waterfront and downtown, was previously closed to all but area residents, first responders and employees of local businesses.

VIEW | What people saw when Main Street reopened:

A view of Lahaina as the highway reopens in Hawaii after wildfires

CBC News' Lindsay Duncombe is in Lahaina, Hawaii, giving a roadside glimpse of the destruction the area has suffered from devastating wildfires.

A brief relaxation of road closures earlier in the week was suspended after onlookers clogged roads used by search parties and raised fears traffic would disrupt efforts to recover human remains.

Green said there is also a heavy military presence in the area, but reports of looting and violence on social media are largely untrue.

“What we have seen in reality is no significant violence and no significant looting,” he said, although he said the armed forces were there “for security”.

Hundreds are still missing

Hundreds of people are still missing. Up to 40 cadaver dogs are now leading teams in a block-by-block search that has covered 38 percent of the disaster area, Green said Wednesday.

Identification of the remains has been slow, partly due to the intensity of the fire. To help identify and process the remains, the US government has dispatched additional experts from a Disaster Burial Response Team, increasing the staff to 75, Jonathan Greene, a health and human services official, told reporters on Tuesday .

The team includes coroners, pathologists, X-ray technicians and laboratory technicians. A portable disaster relief morgue landed in Hawaii on Tuesday with nearly 20 tons of supplies and equipment, including morgue tables and laboratory equipment to aid in DNA collection to identify victims.

People in helmets and masks stand on burned-out rubble
Combined Joint Task Force 50 (CJTF-50) search, rescue and recovery personnel conduct search operations in areas damaged by Maui wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii, August 15, 2023. (US Army National Guard handout/Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Foster/Reuters)

On Wednesday, Biden approved Hawaii's request for the federal government to reimburse the full cost of 30 days of emergency work expected to be conducted over the next four months, Deanne Criswell, head of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration, said during a news briefing A house.

FEMA opened its first disaster relief center on Maui, “an important first step” to help residents get information about help, Criswell said. There are nearly 500 FEMA employees on site.

The federal government has so far paid out $2.3 million in family assistance and approved more than 1,300 registrations for assistance, Criswell said in Wednesday's news conference.

VIEW | Class action lawsuit filed after deadly Maui wildfires:

Lawsuit blames broken power lines for Maui wildfires

A class action lawsuit was filed against Hawaiian Electric in the wake of the deadly Maui wildfires. The lawsuit alleges that the utility “chooses not to shut down power lines during weather warnings.”

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