36 killed, 2 dozen injured, historic town reduced to ashes by wildfire in Hawaii | World News - Hindustan Times

Wildfires destroy Hawaii's Lahaina town, 36 killed & several injured. Devastating images emerge

Aug 10, 2023 08:06 PM IST

Wildfire in Lahaina, Maui kills at least six, destroys buildings, and forces residents to flee. Governor declares state of emergency.

A huge wildfire ravaged the town of Lahaina in Maui, Hawaii, on Wednesday, August 9, 2023, killing at least 36 people and injuring many more.

Smoke and flames rise in Lahaina, Maui County, Hawaii, U.S., August 8, 2023 in this still image from video obtained from social media.(Twitter/KanekoaTheGreat)
Smoke and flames rise in Lahaina, Maui County, Hawaii, U.S., August 8, 2023 in this still image from video obtained from social media.(Twitter/KanekoaTheGreat)

The fire, which was likely sparked by human activity, spread rapidly in the windy and dry conditions, reaching the historic center of the town, which is a popular tourist spot with shops and restaurants.

The wildfire destroyed hundreds of buildings, some of which dated back to the 1700s. It also forced some residents to flee into the ocean to avoid the flames and smoke.

The county mayor, Richard Bissen Jr., said he was still trying to find out how and where the six people died. He said he was in “search and rescue mode” and that the death toll could rise.

Governor Josh Green also said he expected some loss of life as a result of the fire. Many people were hurt by burns or smoke inhalation and taken to hospitals in Maui or Oahu.

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A regional director for Hawaii Life Flight said six patients were flown to Oahu on Tuesday night, three of them in critical condition.

A firefighter was also hospitalized with smoke inhalation but was stable.

The fire was worsened by the strong winds from Hurricane Dora, which was passing about 500 miles south of Hawaii but brought gusts of up to 60 mph to the island.

The National Weather Service said the winds made it hard for firefighters to control the fire and carried embers to new areas. The island was also suffering from drought conditions, which made the vegetation more prone to burning.

Hawaii has seen a 400 percent increase in the average area burned by wildfires in the last century, partly due to climate change and the invasion of non-native grasses that provide fuel for fires.

More than 2,100 people were displaced by the fire and sought shelter in evacuation centers or at Kahului Airport, where 2,000 stranded travelers were housed after their flights were canceled or delayed.

The Coast Guard rescued 14 people who fled into the ocean instead of facing the fire and smoke.

Some residents described the scene as “apocalyptic” and said they had to get their elderly relatives out of their homes.

Martin stated, “It’s definitely one of the more challenging days for our island given that it’s multiple fires, multiple evacuations in different district areas.”

“This is so unprecedented. Right now it is all-hands-on-deck and we are anxious for daybreak,” he added.

Alan Dickar, a poster shop owner who escaped with his friends and cats, said he lost everything he owned in the fire.

“Every significant thing I owned burned down today. I’ll be OK. I got out safely,” he said.

Former US President Barack Obama took to Twitter to share a heartfelt post.

“It’s tough to see some of the images coming out of Hawai’i — a place that’s so special to so many of us. Michelle and I are thinking of everyone who has lost a loved one, or whose life has been turned upside down,” the tweet read.

The former president also shared a community foundation charity link for Maui, and asked “you’d like to help, you can do so here.”

Acting Governor Sylvia Luke, who was in charge while Governor Green was traveling, declared a state of emergency for Maui County on Wednesday, authorizing several actions including activation of the National Guard, expenditure of state funds for relief efforts, and coordination with federal agencies. The governor also requested assistance from President Biden, who pledged to mobilize “all available federal assets” to help Hawaii recover from the fires.

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Maui was not the only island affected by wildfires this week. Three fires were also burning on Hawaii’s Big Island, but they did not cause any deaths or injuries or destroy any homes.

Mayor Mitch Roth said one fire was “pretty much under control” and another was 60 percent contained as of Wednesday.

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