Death toll hits 53 as Hawaiian wildfire levels buildings and turns thousands homeless
Massive wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui have killed at least 53 people, a number expected to rise, and unleashed unprecedented destruction on the resort town of Lahaina that will take several years and billions of dollars to rebuild.
The inferno, which started on Tuesday and reduced much of the scenic city to ruins, was the worst natural disaster in Hawaii’s history, according to Governor Josh Green. As many as 1,000 buildings got levelled in the flames, turning thousands of people homeless.
Lahaina attracts 2 million tourists annually, or about 80% of the island’s visitors. The fast-moving inferno was one of three major wildfires on Maui, all of them still burning. Dry conditions, 100 kph gusts of wind and a build-up of fuel created the perfect conditions for the damage.
Scenes of devastating wildfires becoming all too familiar this summer
The Lahaina fire was now 80% contained, Maui County said in a statement. Federal recovery dollars have started to flow along with an influx of equipment and supplies. Among the assistance were cadaver dogs that would aid search and rescue teams in recovering the bodies.
Some people on the island escaped the deadly blaze by jumping into the Pacific Ocean. Among them was a tourist from California, who said he was trapped with his family in a rental car and as the flames got nearer, they had to abandon the vehicle and take refuge in the water.
Scenes of devastating wildfires have become all too familiar elsewhere in the world this summer. Fiery destruction recently forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of tourists and residents in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Canada and other parts of the world.