Hawaii Democrat Senator Brian Schatz used the horrific fire that consumed the city of Lahaina and killed at least 115 people to blame the tragedy on climate change, declaring that the entire planet was at risk of “severe weather.”
Schatz spoke on Monday with CNN’s John Berman, who asked, “What do you think the most important specific lessons are that can be learned from this to make sure a tragedy of this level does not happen again?”
“Well, I think we all have to understand that severe weather events are going to get more frequent and more severe,” Schatz answered. “Hawaii is a place that has experienced volcanic eruptions and tsunamis and hurricanes and tropical storms. And we’ve had a few wildfires but nothing that threatened a whole city — nothing that flattened a whole city.”
“And I just think this is the new normal for not just the State of Hawaii, but for the whole planet — for the whole country,” he hyperbolized. “So, you know, as we contend with increasing severe weather all the time, we’re not only going to need to take action on climate. We actually need to be prepared in terms of our emergency response at the state, local, and federal levels for the kind of disaster that maybe you hadn’t contemplated before.”
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) August 21, 2023
Despite Schatz’s focus on climate change, some experts believe the cause of the Maui fire was high winds that downed power lines. Some victims of the fire launched a lawsuit targeting Hawaiian Electric, saying its equipment was not resilient enough in the face of the heavy winds and the utility did not shut down power after a warning of high winds had been announced.
Berman asked about the mayor of Maui’s statement that 850 on Maui were still unaccounted for, asking if it was possible 850 deceased people were still unidentified.
“I don’t want to speculate,” Schatz answered. “There is a process that we are going through FEMA-led with cadaver dogs to go through every single structure in Lahaina town, and wherever else there was damage. And obviously, we have between 110 and 120 confirmed deceased. And then there’s a process of identifying via DNA sample, the identity of the deceased. But we’re just not done with the process yet. We are hoping that many of the missing simply haven’t checked in and lacked telecommunications. But we just don’t know.”