Estimates of Deaths, Insured Losses, Economic Damage From Hawaii Wildfires Rising

August 16, 2023

Two firms have released early estimates of losses and damage from the devastating wildfires across Hawaii’s Maui island and the historic town of Lahaina.

Catastrophe modeler Karen Clark & Company issued new estimates showing the insured property losses from the Lahaina Fire in Hawaii to be around $3.2 billion.

AccuWeather on Monday increased its estimate of the total damage and economic loss to $14 to $16 billion. That update followed AccuWeather’s preliminary estimate last week of total damage and economic loss of $8-10 billion.

“This is the largest natural disaster we’ve ever experienced,” Governor Josh Green said at a news briefing Saturday. “It’s also going to be a natural disaster that takes an incredible amount of time to recover from.”

The Lahaina fire burned approximately 2,170 acres and devastated the town of Lahaina on Maui, according to KCC. Through analysis of satellite and aerial imagery, KCC estimates that more than 2,200 structures are within the fire perimeter, and more than 3,000 total structures have been impacted by the fire, including secondary impacts such as branding and smoke.

KCC estimates the insured loss will be the second largest in Hawaii’s history—second only to a repeat of Hurricane Iniki based on today’s property values

AccuWeather’s preliminary estimate last week included total damage and economic loss of $8-10 billion.

The latest AccuWeather loss estimate would equate to about 15% of the state of Hawaii’s gross domestic product and would exceed the GDP of Maui.

More than 100 people have been killed in the Maui wildfires, a death toll that’s likely to rise as only 25% of the burn area has been searched. The death toll makes the wildfire the deadliest since 1918, when 453 people were killed in Minnesota and Wisconsin by the Cloquet & Moose Lake Fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. L

Much of Maui’s economy is based on tourism, an industry that will take months if not longer to recover. Communications and power infrastructure have also been severely affected by the disaster, leaving thousands without means to contact emergency services, according to the AccuWeather update.

The ferocious wildfire started on Aug. 8 near Lahaina and was driven by high winds caused by a high pressure system to the north and Hurricane Dora passing to the south, according to KCC.

The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined, however, Hawaiian Electric, which operates the utility that serves Maui, has come under scrutiny for not turning off power despite weather forecasters’ warnings that dry, gusty winds could create critical fire conditions.

Locals are also asking why alarm systems failed to sound to alert people in Lahaina.

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