Wildfires cause devastation in Hawaii

The wildfires which have devastated much of the resort city of Lahaina on Hawaii’s Maui island are the “largest natural disaster in Hawaii state history” according to Governor Josh Green.

As of 11 August, the number of people killed in the wildfires had risen to 55, with hundreds more said to be missing on the island of Maui

The fires started on 8 August night, scorching thousands of acres of land and causing the evacuation of more than 11,000 travellers, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

The cause in Maui had yet to be determined but the National Weather Service said the fires were fuelled by a mix of dry vegetation, strong winds, and low humidity.

Emergency response teams are still searching impacted areas in Hawaii in an attempt to find more survivors, Adam Weintraub, communication director for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said on Thursday (10 August).

When asked about fears that death tolls could rise, Weintraub noted that officials have only recently managed to contain the flames.

Several neighbourhoods were burnt to the ground as the western side of the island was nearly cut off, with only one highway open and thousands to evacuate as officials told of widespread devastation to Lahaina, its harbour and surrounding areas.

Officials said the winds from Hurricane Dora, hundreds of miles to the southwest, had fanned the flames across the state.

Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke told a press conference officials were still assessing the damage.With firefighters battling three major blazes, western Maui remains closed to all but emergency workers and evacuees.

Some 271 structures were damaged or destroyed, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported, citing official reports from flyovers conducted by the US Civil Air Patrol and the Maui Fire Department.

Evacuation efforts were complicated by power outages and disruption to cell phone service, as communication with the west side of Maui was only available via satellite, Lieutenant Governor Luke said.

The US National Guard, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard were mobilised, while the US Department of Transportation aided evacuation efforts, President Biden said.