Before and after images of the Hawaiian city of Lahaina were grayed out

Lahaina, a small coastal town in Hawaii that was ravaged by an exceptionally fast-moving fire last week, has almost nothing left. Images taken on the ground and in space show the extent of the devastation.

Hotels, restaurants, homes or cars: All of the tourist town of Lahaina was incinerated. Also, according to officials, at least 96 people have died in the fires on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

More than 2,200 buildings were destroyed or damaged in the county, according to the federal agency responsible for natural disasters.

Only a small portion of the ruins have been excavated to date, raising fears of a high human toll. Before the disaster, the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii was populated by about 13,000 people.

Many are missing

The fire “melted even metal,” said John Pelletier, police chief on the Hawaiian island of Maui, urging relatives of the missing to submit to DNA testing to help identify the victims.

>> View a photo gallery of the Lahaina Ruins:

Sniffer dogs searching for missing persons, possibly in hundreds, still have a large area to search, the official added.

A venerable banyan tree, one of Lahaina’s tourist attractions, did not escape the fire. Specimens of this species spread on many shoots. The main shaft is still in a square near the sea. The fate of the tree planted in April 1873 remains uncertain.

Residents caught in the fire

The cause of the blistering fire that hit Hawaii is still unknown. Either way, the flames took residents by surprise, leaving many officials to blame.

“We want to know when the fire started? When it came in front of the house,” fumed one resident. “The mountain is burning behind us, we said it!” Like many other residents, he did not receive a warning or an eviction order due to repeated inconsistencies.

>> Watch the Sunday 7:30pm headline:

Officials are cracking down on fires in Hawaii that have killed at least 93 people [RTS]

Officials in Hawaii under fire after wildfires kill at least 93 / 7:30 pm / 1 min. / At 7:30 yesterday morning.

A false alarm system

Especially powerful sirens used for tsunamis were silent. No one knows whether it was a technical glitch or the operator’s decision. Because of the power outage, residents did not receive official warnings, broadcast on television and radio.

Finally, telephones, invaluable relays of information to authorities in this type of crisis, could not help because of the lack of a network. According to residents, the alert that is usually sent in case of a weather hazard or hijacking alert did not sound on their devices.

An inquiry has been launched by the Attorney General into the circumstances surrounding the fire, including the decisions taken by the authorities. Hawaii Congresswoman Jill Toguda has already acknowledged that officials “underestimated the danger and speed of the fire.”

Access to burnt areas is prohibited

Residents anxious to retrieve pieces of their lives spared by the flames waited for hours, hoping to gain access to the floors of their homes to search for pets or missing loved ones.

But Maui police set up roadblocks and warned that the public, even some who could prove they lived in Lahaina, would not be allowed to enter the disaster area until risk assessments and searches were completed.

Antoine Michel with agencies

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