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U.S. Navy Salvage Divers Assist in Search for Victims of Maui Fire
By Sea and Coast | 26/08/2023
U.S. Pacific Fleet Dispatches Salvage Divers to Aid in Harbor Search at Lahaina
 
Following the tragic fire that swept through Lahaina on August 8, resulting in the loss of at least 115 lives and leaving 388 individuals missing, U.S. Pacific Fleet has taken action. A team of salvage divers has been dispatched to collaborate with local first responders in searching Lahaina's harbor. The Navy Times reported this incident response effort.
 
The Maui Fire Department, in conjunction with various agencies, is engaged in scouring approximately four miles of the waterfront within the city harbor. Numerous individuals sought refuge along the shoreline or in the water, with 17 being rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat. There is a likelihood of discovering human remains within the same vicinity.
 
In tandem with these efforts, the U.S. Coast Guard and other relevant organizations are collaborating with Maui County to address a secondary issue concerning the waterfront. The fire's aftermath has left behind toxic ash and residue, containing burnt plastic, heavy metals, and an array of chemical constituents from modern life, including pesticides and automotive coolant. This hazardous mixture remains exposed to the elements, poised to wash into the bay with the arrival of the first rain.
 
Lahaina's storm drain system is separate from the sewerage system and does not connect to a treatment facility. Instead, it empties directly into the sea. The potential release of toxic runoff poses a significant threat to the region's reefs and fisheries, which are vital to both tourists and residents.
 
To mitigate this environmental hazard, the response plan outlines the placement of filter barriers around each road's storm drain to minimize the influx of pollutants into the waterway. The Coast Guard has deployed booms strategically along the waterfront to contain oil released from burned-out vehicles. Additionally, the environmental response team intends to apply a biodegradable binder compound to the most affected dust, aiming to prevent its dispersion.
 
The contaminants may have already affected the water supply, leading to the issuance of a no-drink order for Lahaina's water system. Officials suspect that certain toxic substances have already infiltrated the water. In response, bottled water is being distributed to first responders, while clean drinking water fill-up points are accessible to residents for refilling their own containers.
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