On Saturday (12 August), the officials confirmed that at least 80 people have been killed by wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui. However, there is a growing concern that the number of casualties could increase further, as authorities have been unable to locate hundreds of residents.
Passenger captures devastating scenes from the wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii. pic.twitter.com/7C2XqexNE0
— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@aviationbrk) August 10, 2023
The Lahaina fire, currently raging across Hawaii, has already become one of the most fatal blazes in U.S. records, with authorities cautioning that the casualty count is likely to increase. This marks the second-highest death toll from a fire within the past century, trailing only the 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California, which claimed 85 lives and engulfed the town of Paradise.
The officials have ensured that all efforts are underway to minimise the damage to property and loss of life. This includes extensive rescue operations and firefighting.
Firefighters have been trying to douse the fires in several areas and limit the area of wildfire. An increased focus is on the historic town of Lahaina which has been severely devastated.
Wildfires have burned historic Hawaii town Lahaina to the ground, at least 36 people lost their lives and 11,000 have been evacuated. Don’t skip this post without leaving a heart for Hawaii. pic.twitter.com/wFo12czpxT
— Mohamad Safa (@mhdksafa) August 10, 2023
As per a report in BBC, Hawaii’s Attorney General has announced to conduct a “comprehensive review” of the measures that have been undertaken by the authorities against the wildfires. This announcement is particularly important as several questions have been raised that whether officials warned the residents in advance of the calamity or not.
On Friday (11 August), State officials reopened Lahaina for the first time since flames started engulfing the area earlier this week. According to officials, it is open only to those people who have proof of residency.
Meanwhile, the Honoapiilani Highway is one of the only available routes into Lahaina. It was jam-packed with cars stacked bumper-to-bumper. Exhausted family members trying to escape the wildfire and find safe shelters were helplessly stuck in the traffic.
Fully filled trucks have been trying to provide essential supplies like water, fuel, nappies, and toilet paper to the wildfire-affected people, however, they too were stuck in traffic jams. This is why, hours after opening, the route was closed for everyone except for those providing emergency services.
Earlier, Governor Josh Green had warned residents that they would be greeted by “destruction like they’ve not ever seen in their lives”.
On Friday evening, tensions escalated when residents of Kaanapali which is in the north of Lahaina, were told to leave their homes because a fire had started in the area where a fueling station was set up. However, the Maui officials assured that the fire was brought under control some two hours later.
As per the officials, there is no power or water supply in the area of West Maui, where Lahaina and Kaanapali are located.
Rescue operations are being carried out to look for survivors of this massive Hawaii wildfire and this includes looking for survivors in the water.
Evidently, the Coast Guard stated that it had safely pulled 17 people alive from the water near the town’s harbour and all of them were reportedly in stable condition.
However, speaking to BBC, Gabe Lucy, who owns a tour operator on Maui claimed that he was “hearing horrific accounts”. He said, “People were jumping in the water and I think for a lot of them the fire wrapped around so quickly that the only way to escape was to go down to the water’s edge.”
US President Joe Biden announced Hawaii wildfire a “major disaster”
Earlier it was reported that strong winds from a far-off hurricane Dora fueled the fires in the city of Lahaina, the island’s primary tourist attraction, resulting in the fatalities.
On Thursday (10 August), President Biden declared the wildfire in Hawaii a “major disaster”. As per the White House, he also ordered federal aid to areas affected by wildfires. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
As per a statement by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the wildfires started on August 8 and since then it has burned thousands of acres and endangered the lives of more than 35,000 people on Maui. Additionally, the wildfire had jeopardised their homes, businesses, and property.
Four sites in Maui have suffered the majority of the brunt of this wildfire. However, authorities have not been able to contain the fire and it has been spreading to new areas. As per the officials, it will take years and billions of dollars to rebuild.