At least 36 killed as flames sweep through Maui. The deaths occurred as high winds from a faraway cyclone fueled the fires in Lahaina, the island’s biggest tourist attraction.
The fire is one of numerous continuing blazes that have destroyed entire neighborhoods. A state of emergency has been issued, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. A massive search and rescue operation is underway, with some persons still missing.
“We barely made it out in time,” said Kamuela Kawaakoa, who rushed to an evacuation shelter with his girlfriend and six-year-old son on Tuesday.
“It was so hard to just sit there and watch my town burn to ashes and not be able to do anything,” he added. “I was completely helpless.”
On Maui, five evacuation shelters have been created, and officials have already stated that they are “overrun” with people. Visitors have been advised to avoid the island, which is a popular tourist attraction.
“This is not a safe place to be,” said Hawaii Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke. “We do have resources that are being taxed.”
Firefighters are still battling active flames, with helicopters pouring water from above on the blazes.
With just one main route passable, the western portion of the island, the second biggest in the Hawaiian archipelago, was nearly completely shut off.
“As firefighting efforts continue, 36 total fatalities have been discovered today amid the active Lahaina fire,” the Maui county administration stated late Wednesday in a statement.
Since the flames started on Tuesday, dozens of people have been hurt, and hospitals on the island are treating patients for burns and smoke inhalation.
The fire ravaged Lahaina, as video showed the inferno sweeping across the beachside vacation city.
“We just experienced the worst disaster I’ve ever witnessed.” Lahaina has been completely consumed by fire. “It’s like the apocalypse,” Mason Jarvi, a local, told Reuters. He presented photographs of the city’s devastated and burned shoreline to the news agency.
Mr Jarvi said he was burned after riding his bike through the flames to save his dog.
People have already jumped into the city’s water to escape the flames and smoke. According to authorities, fourteen individuals were rescued after jumping in.
Businesses in the Lahaina area have been wrecked, and one senior education official predicted the city’s century-old primary school may be demolished.
The severe gusts created by passing Hurricane Dora lessened significantly on Wednesday, allowing pilots to see the full extent of the devastation.
Images from above revealed burned-out automobiles littering the streets and smoke rising high above mounds of wreckage.
“It’s frightening. “I’ve been flying here for 52 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” helicopter pilot Richard Olsten told the Associated Press. “We both had tears in our eyes.”
Climate warming increases the likelihood of hot, dry weather that fuels wildfires.
The world has already warmed by around 1.2 degrees Celsius since the beginning of the industrial age, and temperatures will continue to rise unless governments throughout the world drastically reduce emissions.