Hawaii governor says more than 1,000 people still unaccounted for after devastating wildfires

(The Hill) – Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) said on Sunday more than 1,000 people were still unaccounted for, as search and rescue operations continue to scour the devastation left behind by the wildfires in Maui County.

“More than 1,000 are unaccounted for, about 1,050. It will take several weeks still. Some of the challenges are going to be extraordinary. As you reported, 85 percent of the of the land of the impact zone has been covered now by what amounts to an army of search and rescue teams and 41 dogs,” Green said in an interview on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”

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“So 85 percent of the land has been covered. Now we go into the larger buildings which require peeling back some of the floors and structures. That last 15 percent could take weeks,” Green added.

Green said that the final stretch of the search may not yield the results that the community is hoping for, as some remains “may be impossible to recover meaningfully.”

“We do have extreme concerns that, because of the temperature of the fire, the remains of those who have died, in some cases, may be impossible to recover meaningfully. So there are going to be people that are lost forever. And right now we’re working obviously with the FBI and everyone on the ground to make sure that we do what we can to assess who’s missing,’ Green said.

As officials continue to face questions about why the emergency sirens were not sounded, Green acknowledged that while “of course” he wishes the sirens went off, he stood firm in the position that the decision was made because the sirens generally signal a tsunami. Officials have said they were concerned the sirens would prompt residents to run inwards, which is the appropriate response to tsunamis, but would have likely caused more devastation in the face of rapidly spreading wildfire.

“Of course, I, as a person, as a father, as a doctor, I wish all the sirens went off. The challenge that you’ve heard – and it’s not to excuse or explain anything – the challenge has been that historically, those sirens are used for tsunamis. That’s, when I came to Hawaii 23 years ago, was told when I was living down near the shore, so it’s usually tsunamis and hurricanes,” he said.

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Green said earlier this week on CNN that he believes some of the sirens were broken. Asked on Sunday when he learned that the sirens weren’t fully functional, Green said, “We assess every siren across the state on the first of the month, and then we asked people to update them and fix them to their abilities.”

“Do I wish those sirens went off? Of course, I do. And I think that the answer that the emergency administrator from Maui, who’s resigned, said was, of course, utterly unsatisfactory to the world, but it is the case that that we’ve historically not used those kinds of warnings for fires,” Green said in the interview.

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