Maui wildfires: At least 6 dead as wildfires ravage parts of Hawaii island, official says

KAHULUI, Hawaii (AP) – A wildfire Ripped the heart The Hawaiian island of Maui was plunged into total darkness on Wednesday, burning much of a historic town and forcing residents to jump into the ocean to escape the flames. At least six people died and dozens were injured.

Acting Governor Sylvia Luke said the flames had “destroyed communities” and urged travelers to stay away.

“It’s not a safe place,” he said.

A wind-driven fire in coastal Lahaina spread with alarming speed and ferocity, burning through intersections and leaping across wooden buildings in the town center, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since the 1700s.

Aerial video showed entire blocks of homes and businesses leveled to the ground, including Front Street, a popular shopping and dining area. Other images depict a scene of almost complete destruction. Smoldering piles of trash piled up near the waterfront, and gray smoke billowed over the leafless skeletons of charred trees.

“It’s been apocalyptic since they explained it,” Thierry Lawrence said of the 14 cousins ​​and uncles. “Heat. Smoke and flames everywhere. They had to get my old uncle out of the house.

Relatives took refuge at the Lawrence home in Pukajani, east of Lahaina. She also frantically tried to reach her siblings on Wednesday morning, but there was no phone service.

Lahaina resident Kyumoku Kapu was tying up items loose in the wind at the cultural center he runs in Lahaina when his wife came by Tuesday afternoon to tell him they had to leave. “At that point, things got crazy and the wind started blowing,” Capu said, adding that they left “just in time.”

Two blocks away they saw fire and smoke. Kapu, his wife and a friend jumped into his pickup truck. “By the time we got back, our building was on fire,” he said. “It was so quick.”

Crews on Maui battled several blazes concentrated in two areas: a tourist resort on the west coast and an inland, mountainous area. In West Maui, 911 service was suspended and residents were advised to call the police department directly.

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“DO NOT GO TO Lahaina Town,” the county tweeted, adding that all roads in and out of the community of 12,000 residents would be closed to all but emergency personnel.

The National Weather Service said Hurricane DoraIt was about 500 miles (805 kilometers) south of the island chain, partly responsible for 60 mph (97 kph) winds that knocked out power, grounded homes and grounded firefighting helicopters. The plane resumed flying on Wednesday as the wind speed eased slightly.

The Coast Guard on Tuesday rescued 14 people, including two children, who fled into the sea to escape the fire and smoke zone, a district statement said.

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. said six people were killed in the Maui fires, but search and rescue operations continued and the toll could rise. said at a news conference Wednesday morning. He said that he has come to know about the news and the details of how and where the death took place are not known.

Six patients were flown from Maui to Oahu Tuesday night, said Speedy Bailey, regional director of air-ambulance company Hawaii Life Flight. Three of them had severe burns and were taken to Straub Medical Center’s burn unit, he said. Others were taken to other Honolulu hospitals. At least 20 patients were taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center, he said.

A Maui firefighter was hospitalized in stable condition after suffering smoke inhalation, officials said Wednesday.

Luke issued an emergency announcement on behalf of Gov. Josh Green, who was traveling, and activated the Hawaii National Guard to assist.

“Parts of Maui, where we have shelters, are breached,” Luke said. “We have resources that are taxed.”

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No tally was available for the number of buildings burned or the number of evacuees, but officials said four shelters were open and more than 1,000 people were at large.

Kahului Airport, the main airport on Maui, is sheltering 2,000 travelers whose flights have been canceled or who recently arrived on the island, the county said.

Officials were preparing the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu to take in 4,000 displaced tourists and locals.

“Local people have lost everything,” said James Tokyoga, director of the Department of Commerce, Economic Development and Tourism. “They lost their home, they lost their animals.”

Kapu, who owns the Na Aikane o Maui Cultural Center in Lahaina, said he and his wife didn’t have time to pack anything before they were forced to flee. “We had years of research material, artifacts,” he said.

Alan Dicker said he’s not sure what’s left of his gallery of vintage European posters, which has been on Lahaina’s Front Street for 23 years. Before leaving with three friends and two cats, Tigger recorded a video of the flames engulfing the main area of ​​shops and restaurants frequented by tourists.

“All the important things I owned were burnt today,” he said. “I’ll be fine. I’m out safely.

Considering that the three houses he owned were destroyed, Dikar said he would have to make a heroic effort to rebuild what was burnt down.

“Everybody that comes to Maui, the only place that everybody goes to,” he said. “The middle two blocks are the economic center of this island, and I don’t know what else there is.”

Maui wasn’t the only one on fire.

Members of the Hawaii Land and Natural Resources Forest Firefighting Team battle a fire in Kula, Maui, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. (Maui News via Matthew Thayer/AP)

There were no reports of injuries or loss of homes in three wildfires burning on Hawaii’s Big Island, Mayor Mitch Roth said Wednesday. Firefighters extinguished some roof fires. A fire is “very much under control,” he said. Another was 60% contained, and another had continued eruptions near Mauna Kea Resorts, he said.

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About 30 power poles are down around Lahaina, leaving homes, hotels and shelters without power, Pisen said. About 14,500 customers on Maui were without power early Wednesday morning, according to Poweroutage.us.

“This is definitely one of the most challenging days for our island because it’s multiple fires, multiple evacuations in different county areas,” Maui County spokeswoman Mahina Martin said.

In Maui’s Kula area, the fire, which burned about 1.7 square miles (4.5 square kilometers), destroyed at least two homes, Pisen said. About 80 people were evacuated from 40 houses, he said.

Fires in Hawaii are not like most Burning in the American West. They tend to break out in large grasslands on the drier sides of islands and are generally much smaller than terrestrial fires.

Fires were rare in Hawaii And on other tropical islands before humans arrived, native ecosystems developed without them. This means that when a fire breaks out, there will be huge environmental damage. For example, fire removes vegetation. When fires are followed by heavy rains, the rain can carry loose soil into the ocean, where it can smother coral reefs.

A Great fire on the Big Island in 2021 burning homes and forcing thousands to evacuate.

Lahaina is often thought of as a Maui tourist town, Lawrence said, but “we have a very strong Hawaiian community.”

“I am heartbroken. Our memories are everywhere,” she said. “Everybody’s houses. Everyone’s life has turned tragic in the last 12 hours,” he said.

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This story has been edited to correct that Pissen, not Lahaina, is the mayor of Maui County.

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Cinco Kelleher reports from Honolulu. Associated Press writer Beatrice Dubuis in New York contributed to this report.

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