Hawaii wildfires: Six deaths confirmed as blazes engulf Maui

by | Aug 9, 2023 | Climate Change

This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.By Max Matza in Seattle & Bernd Debusmann Jr in Washington DCBBC NewsSix people have died and more have been injured by wildfires sweeping the Hawaiian island of Maui, officials say.Thousands are without power or cell phone service due to fires that are being fuelled by winds from a nearby hurricane in the Pacific Ocean. Several blazes are also burning on the Big Island, also known as Hawaii island, a neighbouring island to Maui.Officials say search and rescue efforts are still ongoing. But they warn that the death toll may rise.Authorities have evacuated neighbourhoods, closed roads, and opened shelters to host thousands of evacuees.An emergency order has been signed discouraging people from coming to Maui, which is a popular tourist destination. “We have shelters that are overrun, we have resources that are being taxed, we are doing whatever we can” for local residents, the state Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke said during a news briefing on Wednesday morning local time.This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.On Maui, about 4,000 visitors are trying to leave the island, said state transportation official Ed Sniffen. Thousands there are also without cell service, due to about 29 power poles collapsing. The full scale of the damages to homes and businesses is not yet clear, officials say.Maj Gen Kenneth S Hara, who is in charge of the emergency response, said the priority at the moment is “saving lives, preventing human suffering, and mitigating great property loss”.More than 12,000 people in the state of Hawaii are currently without power, according to PowerOutage.Us.’We grabbed what we could’ – fleeing a wildfireDevastating wildfires spur new detection systemsMuch of the destruction has taken place in the Maui island town of Lahaina. Parts of the town were destroyed or severely damaged by the blaze. One local resident told media that every boat in the town harbour was burning.The US Coast Guard said it had rescued 12 people after reports of residents fleeing into the water to escape the fires. ReutersMaui County Mayor Richard Missen confirmed the six fatalities, but said he was not yet able to provide further details. There were also at least 20 injuries, including a firefighter who suffered smoke inhalation. Three patients are in critical condition.He warned the total number of fatalities could rise as emergency responders conduct search and rescue operations as well as evacuations. A full assessment of the damage could take “months,” Ms Luke said in Wednesday’s briefing. She also said that “there are concerns about potential riots” in the aftermath.EPAThe Lahaina fire is one of at least seven ongoing in Hawaii. About 13,000 people live in the city situated on the western part of the island of Maui.Local resident, Dustin Kaleiopu, told Hawaii News Now that his house was among those destroyed in the fire. “Everything that we’d ever known was gone. Our church, our schools, every single memory we had on this household,” he said. “Everything was gone in the blink of an eye.” “There is no Lahaina,” resident Kekai Keahi told the Associated Press news agency. “Lahaina no exist anymore.”ReutersThat fire is one of several in Hawaii fuelled by strong winds by Hurricane Dora hundreds of miles offshore, low humidity and dry air, according to the National Weather Service’s Honolulu office. Local officials have said that the winds have complicated efforts to use helicopters for firefighting operations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) and the US Marines are assisting in firefighting and search and rescue operations, the White House said on Wednesday.Fema is also working towards providing emergency supplies, including water, food, cots, and blankets.On Tuesday night, Ms Luke issued an emergency declaration and activated the state’s National Guard. Fires in Hawaii are typically smaller than those which plague California and other parts of the western continental US. Experts have warned, however, that they are often more damaging, as Hawaii’s ecosystem evolved without fires before the arrival of humans.Related TopicsWildfiresHawaiiUnited States …

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