HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Recovery efforts continue in Maui after the devastating wildfire in Lahaina. At least 111 people are confirmed dead. That number is expected to rise, with less than half the burn zone searched. More than 1,300 people are still missing.
Maui’s top emergency official resigned after he defended the decision to not sound warning sirens as wildfires hit the island.
Survivors are coming forward sharing their terrifying stories, including Tampa native, Gregory Molkenthin, who moved to Hawaii five years ago.
For the past year and a half, Molkenthin has been living in Lahaina. Molkenthin is now criticizing state and federal leaders for what he says has been a lack of a response.
“Living on Maui has been nothing but short of fantastic up until a week and a half ago,” said Molkenthin.
Molkenthin describes the wildfires as sheer carnage, destruction, chaos all wrapped up in one.
“You see people with moments of joy you see people with moments of sadness and sorrow, and one thing that I’ve seen through all of this as aloha,” said Molkenthin.
He recalled his chaotic escape out of his home in Lahaina to Napili.
“There were powerlines down power poles, cars and the roads street signs, and in the meantime, I was just submerged in black smoke, and red embers and fire all around me,” he said.
Molkenthin is now volunteering.
“There’s been very little coordination from the state and the government within the first five days,” he said. “We didn’t see anybody. There was no outside help. All the efforts have been from neighboring islands.”
Molkenthin said private boats have been making runs from neighboring islands—offloading supplies like water and diapers.
Hawaii’s Attorney General released a statement on Thursday, saying she’s now asking a third-party investigator to see how the wildfire response was handled.
“I think there needs to be some serious audits and what’s happened from the moment this fire started till even now because the community has lost trust in the state and the government,” said Molkenthin.
Molkenthin said one of the main goals for Lahaina now is to make sure they are prepared for disasters of this nature. In the meantime, authorities are investigating the cause of the fire.