Home NEWS International News Hawaii fires: Maui death toll climbs to 80

Hawaii fires: Maui death toll climbs to 80

Eighty people have now been confirmed to have been killed by wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui, officials say.

There are fears the numbers will rise further, as hundreds are still uncontactable.

Channel 1

Firefighters have been trying to contain fires in several areas, including the historic town of Lahaina which has been utterly devastated.

Hawaii’s attorney general has announced a “comprehensive review” into how the authorities responded to the wildfires.

It comes as questions mount over whether officials warned residents fast enough.

State officials reopened Lahaina to people with proof of residency on Friday for the first time since flames swept rapidly through early this week, razing much of the coastal town which has a rich history and attracts some two million tourists a year.

On the Honoapiilani Highway – one of the only available routes into Lahaina – cars sat bumper-to-bumper, with families looking tired and worried alongside trucks piled high with supplies, water, fuel, nappies and toilet paper.

But within hours after opening, the road was shut to everyone but emergency services.

Authorities told the BBC that police had been called in to address a “situation” but would not elaborate.

Evacuated Lahaina residents later said they believed their homes had been struck by looting, though this was not confirmed by police.

Still, for hours after the closure, families sat in a mile-long line.

Earlier, Governor Josh Green had warned residents would be greeted by “destruction like they’ve not ever seen in their lives”.

And for many of Lahaina’s evacuees, that waiting devastation is still too much to see.

In Paukukalo, a coastal neighbourhood east of Lahaina, 23 stranded members of the Tacderan family gathered with relatives to take stock of the loss.

One of them, 26-year-old Bryan Aguiran, remained in Lahaina through the worst of the fire, fighting the blaze with large buckets of water and miraculously saving his family home.

But he does not want to go back.

“Every time I close my eyes I see Armageddon,” he said, adding he has not been able to sleep.

“Lahaina will never be the same,” he said.

He, like many other Maui residents, said he feared how much further the death toll would climb.

These fears were intensified on Friday evening when residents of Kaanapali – north of Lahaina – were ordered to evacuate as a fire flared up in the area where a fuelling station had been set up. It was brought under control some two hours later, Maui officials said.

West Maui, where Lahaina and Kaanapali are located, is still without power and water. Search crews are still in the area looking for wildfire victims.

That includes in the water. The Coast Guard said it had pulled 17 people alive from the water near the town’s harbour so far. All were reported to be in a stable condition.

But Gabe Lucy, who owns a tour operator on Maui, told the BBC that he was hearing horrific accounts.

“People were jumping in the water and I think for a lot of them the fire wrapped around so quick that the only way to escape was go down to the water’s edge,” said Mr Lucy, whose boats were called in to help.

He added that they were “picking up four-year-olds and putting them on surfboards and pulling them out” and that he had heard reports of “bodies on the rocks”.

Authorities have warned it will take many years to repair the damage caused by wildfires on the island of Maui. More than 1,000 buildings have been destroyed in Lahaina alone.

The extensive damage is an added stress for Maui’s locals, many of whom rely on the service jobs supplied by the tourism industry.

Governor Josh Green warned Hawaiians on Friday what they found in Lahaina would be difficult.

“Lahaina is a devastated zone. They will see destruction like they’ve not ever seen in their lives,” said the governor, who visited the town on Thursday. “Be very safe, be very careful.”

There are six shelters in operation on Maui for those displaced, and officials said they were drafting a plan to house them in hotels and tourist rental properties.

In recent days, donations have been rolling in.

The island is home to many wealthy people, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He and his partner Lauren Sanchez have pledged $100m (£79m) to help the fire victims.

Wildfires on Hawaii’s Maui island and Big Island began on Tuesday night. The cause is still not known but once lit, hurricane winds and dry weather helped fuel the flames.

 

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