At least 36 people have died on Maui as fires burn through Hawaii, county reports

by Ryan Lee
fokus keyword Maui fire

At least 36 individuals have perished on the Hawaiian island of Maui as fires rage across the region, according to county reports. Thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes when the Lahaina fire spread across Maui, leading to at least 36 deaths and the destruction of portions of a town with centuries of history. The sudden onset of the fire resulted in chaos, with vehicles left burned on once-bustling streets and historical structures reduced to smoldering debris.

Throughout the night, the fire’s intensity forced both adults and children to seek refuge in the ocean. Maui county disclosed the latest death toll on its website, noting that more details were not yet available. Earlier, officials reported that 271 buildings were either damaged or destroyed, and several individuals were injured.

Firefighting efforts continued across various locations on Maui on Wednesday, with authorities advising visitors to keep their distance. The Hawaiian fires, fueled by the strong winds of Hurricane Dora, represent the latest weather-related catastrophe this summer, a trend experts attribute to climate change.

Residents, including Kamuela Kawaakoa and Iiulia Yasso, shared terrifying accounts of their narrow escape under smoke-filled skies. The couple and their young child barely managed to evacuate their apartment as the surrounding vegetation ignited. A nearby senior center caught fire as they fled, creating a chaotic scene with downed utility poles and fleeing vehicles.

Lahaina Town, a beloved tourist destination dating back to the 1700s, suffered significant damage. People watched in horror as wildfires consumed their community, with some, like Kawaakoa, feeling helpless as their town burned.

The devastation became evident from aerial footage showing razed homes, businesses, and a waterfront littered with the remains of burned boats and charred trees. The sight was described as horrifying by a veteran helicopter pilot.

Power outages affected approximately 14,500 customers on Maui, and communication struggles added to the chaos. Officials, including Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, were working to restore essential services and manage the ongoing crisis, including water distribution and firefighting efforts.

The educational department is working on contingency plans for the possible loss of King Kamehameha III elementary school, a Lahaina institution for over a century. Most Maui schools will remain closed for the week.

Fourteen people, including two children, were rescued by the Coast Guard after jumping into the water to escape the flames. Among those injured were three critically burned individuals who were flown to specialized burn units.

The Mayor of Maui County, Richard Bissen Jr., addressed the situation without specific details regarding the six deaths. He emphasized the ongoing challenge posed by dry conditions, low humidity, and strong winds.

Evacuation centers were set up to shelter thousands, and emergency plans were made to accommodate both tourists and locals. Personal stories of fear and loss were numerous, with residents expressing hope and sorrow over the uncertainty of their homes’ fate.

President Joe Biden pledged federal support for the response effort, and former President Barack Obama expressed sadness over the images emerging from his birthplace. Business owners and residents were left to assess the loss of a once-thriving economic center and personal belongings.

Wildfires were also reported on Hawaii’s Big Island, though without injuries or destruction of homes. Acting Gov. Sylvia Luke issued an emergency proclamation and urged travelers to stay away, citing the unsafe conditions.

The nature of fires in Hawaii differs from those in the U.S. West, as they often occur in large grasslands on the dry sides of the islands. However, these fires can still cause significant damage, as seen with a major fire on the Big Island in 2021.

Yasso, who narrowly escaped the flames with her partner Kawaakoa, emphasized the emotional toll of the fire, equating the destruction to the loss of communal memories and personal histories. She cautioned people against visiting the area, underscoring the need for time to recover and rebuild.

The reporting was contributed to by Sinco Kelleher in Honolulu and Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, with additional support from Big Big News writers Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and Beatrice Dupuy in New York.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword Maui fire

How many people have died in the Maui fire?

At least 36 individuals have died as a result of the fire on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

What areas were most affected by the fire?

The Lahaina fire has swept across Maui, damaging or destroying 271 structures and burning parts of a centuries-old town.

What caused the Hawaiian fires?

Strong winds from Hurricane Dora fueled the fires, and experts have pointed to climate change as a factor increasing the likelihood of such events.

Were there any emergency measures taken for evacuations?

Yes, thousands of residents were evacuated, with over 2,100 spending the night in evacuation centers. Authorities also advised visitors to stay away from the affected areas.

How have officials responded to the fires?

Local, state, and federal officials have responded with firefighting efforts, evacuation measures, and emergency support. President Joe Biden pledged federal support, and the National Guard was mobilized.

What are the concerns regarding communication and power?

Approximately 14,500 customers in Maui were without power, and some areas experienced downed cell service and phone lines, making communication challenging.

Have any schools been affected?

Yes, contingency plans are being worked on for the possible loss of the King Kamehameha III elementary school in Lahaina. Most Maui schools will remain closed for the week.

How can travelers and tourists stay informed and safe?

Acting Gov. Sylvia Luke has urged travelers to stay away from the affected areas, citing unsafe conditions. Authorities have been issuing updates and emergency proclamations to guide residents and visitors.

What are some personal stories from the disaster?

Residents like Kamuela Kawaakoa and Iiulia Yasso described harrowing escapes, barely making it out alive. Others shared their grief over losing homes, businesses, and memories of growing up.

Are other areas in Hawaii affected by fires?

Wildfires were also reported on Hawaii’s Big Island, but there have been no reports of injuries or destroyed homes there.

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Jenny Smith August 10, 2023 - 11:54 am

This is just devastating, i can’t believe how many lives and homes have been lost. My prayers go out to everyone affected. stay safe everyone!

EcoWarrior22 August 10, 2023 - 2:39 pm

Climate change isn’t something in the future, it’s here now. Fires like this one are proof. We all need to do our part, even if its just recycling or saving water. every bit helps.

TimfromHawaii August 10, 2023 - 6:39 pm

As someone living in Maui, this is a nightmare come true. Never thought i’d see the day when my hometown burns to ashes. dont know if anything’s left of my house.

Mark_Ocean78 August 10, 2023 - 9:10 pm

What’s going on with our world? Fires, hurricanes, floods…climate change is real people! we need to act now or it will be to late.

KarenInNYC August 10, 2023 - 9:57 pm

This brings back memories of other big fires. scary stuff. Thank God for brave firefighters and rescue workers. Lets pray for Maui.

George W August 10, 2023 - 10:41 pm

Will the government ever learn? This could’ve been prevented, i’m sure. More funding, more support for firefighters, better disaster management. Wake up, folks.


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