Survivors of Maui’s fires return home to ruins, death toll up to 67. New blaze prompts evacuations

by Sophia Chen
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fokus keyword Maui wildfires

People are returning home to witness the destruction left behind by Maui’s wildfires, which have now claimed 67 lives. The scene is a grim one: cars destroyed by fire, houses and businesses reduced to rubble, telephone poles and elevator shafts left standing in ash, and surreal shapes of glass bottles warped by intense heat.

Anthony Garcia, one of the victims, surveyed the damage under Lahaina’s once-magnificent banyan tree, now reduced to a charred wreck. He made an effort to tidy up the twisted branches and piles of dead animals including cats and birds, casualties of the disaster. For Garcia, the act of cleaning up helped him make sense of the chaos and his own personal loss.

“I have to do something or I’ll go insane,” he commented, visibly distressed at losing everything and expressing a crisis of faith.

On Friday, as the death toll reached 67, Garcia and others confronted the shattered remnants of their homes and lives. Meanwhile, a new fire in West Maui led to evacuations in Kaanapali, according to the Maui Police Department’s announcement on social media.

The state’s Attorney General, Anne Lopez, promised a thorough review of the decision-making and policies affecting the response to these deadly fires, aiming to understand what went wrong and to share the findings with the public.

This disaster marks Hawaii’s deadliest natural catastrophe in decades, with the wildfires even surpassing the death tolls of tsunamis in 1960 and 1946. Many survivors reported receiving no warnings or sirens, only realizing the danger when they saw flames or heard explosions. Hawaii’s emergency management’s failure to sound warning sirens has left some questioning the effectiveness of the alert system, especially considering the power and cellular outages that might have hindered other methods of communication.

Governor Josh Green expects the death toll to rise further as search and rescue operations continue. He also emphasized the complexity of recovery efforts but encouraged people to assess their homes safely.

The fire’s cause, fuelled by a dry summer and strong winds, is being investigated, and cadaver-sniffing dogs have been brought in to help search for more victims. The situation has left a trail of devastation, including an entire grid of grey rubble in Lahaina, charred cars, burnt palm trees, and scorched boats.

Survivors like Summer and Gilles Gerling, who managed to salvage only a few personal mementos from the ashes, are trying to focus on what truly matters: “Safety was the main concern. These are all material things,” Gilles Gerling said.

The wildfire is projected to be Hawaii’s second-costliest disaster, behind Hurricane Iniki in 1992, and the deadliest fire in the U.S. since California’s 2018 Camp Fire.

Maui’s vulnerability to wildfires was known, and a report from 2020 pointed to high-risk areas. Despite this, firefighting efforts may have been hindered by staffing and equipment limitations. Maui’s residents have also been warned about potential water contamination, which may present health risks.

As they cope with the loss and devastation, Lahaina’s residents like Lana Vierra are eager to rebuild and move forward. Others, like Riley Curran, reflect on the ferocity and speed of the flames, acknowledging the difficulty in combating such a rapidly spreading fire.

The magnitude of the destruction and the swiftness with which the fire consumed the town has left many in shock. Investigations, recovery, and rebuilding will be a long and complex process in the aftermath of a disaster that has left an indelible mark on Maui and its people.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword Maui wildfires

What is the death toll from the Maui wildfires?

The death toll from the Maui wildfires has risen to 67, making it the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii in decades.

What caused the Maui wildfires?

The wildfires were fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane. The exact cause is still under investigation.

Were there any warnings or sirens before the fires?

Many survivors reported that they did not hear any sirens or receive a warning in time to prepare. Hawaii’s emergency management records also do not indicate that warning sirens were sounded.

What is the state’s response to the wildfires?

Attorney General Anne Lopez announced plans to conduct a comprehensive review of decision-making and policies impacting the response to the wildfires. Governor Josh Green has also warned about the complexities of recovery and ongoing search and rescue operations.

Have there been any new fires or evacuations?

Yes, a new fire late on Friday triggered the evacuation of Kaanapali in West Maui, a community northeast of the area that was affected earlier.

What has been the impact on Lahaina?

The most serious blaze swept into Lahaina, leaving a grid of gray rubble. Nearly every building on Front Street, the heart of historic Lahaina and the economic hub of Maui, was destroyed.

How are the survivors coping with the loss?

Survivors are returning home to assess the damage, with many focusing on safety and the fact that material losses can be replaced. Others are eager to rebuild and move forward, despite the emotional toll.

More about fokus keyword Maui wildfires

  • Maui Wildfire Response and Recovery
  • Hawaii Emergency Management Agency
  • Latest News on Maui Wildfires
  • Lahaina Historic District
  • U.S. Wildfire Statistics and History
  • Hawaii’s Natural Disaster Preparedness

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