Tragedy Strikes as Maui Wildfires Leave 6 Dead and Communities Ravaged

The island’s mayor, Richard Bissen Jr., made the announcement at a news conference on Wednesday, but he did not provide any other information on the deaths and indicated that search and rescue activities were still ongoing. Officials in Maui County have reported that more than a dozen people, including two children, have needed to be rescued from the water.

Bissen also mentioned that several persons have gone missing. After communities were engulfed in flames, many residents became fearful for the safety of their families. I have been up for more than 24 hours. Dustin Kaleiopu, whose home was destroyed in the fire, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday, “I spent all night, all through the morning scrolling through my phone looking for family members.”

Kaleiopu and his grandfather woke up early on Wednesday to howling winds and the sight of the flames nearing their home. Around 4 o’clock they got up and left. Kaleiopu’s dad returned to the house an hour later to make sure his family had made it out safely, but they had left everything behind.

The tweet below verifies the news:

“Our entire street was burned to the ground,” Kaleiopu said. Hurricane Dora, churning more than 800 miles away, contributed to the rapid spread of fires on Maui on Tuesday, which destroyed homes and businesses, prompted urgent rescue missions, disrupted power and communication services, and drove some people into the ocean to escape the flames.

On Wednesday afternoon, authorities on the island urged tourists to evacuate Lahaina and Maui “as soon as possible,” saying that a mass bus evacuation was under way and that there were empty seats on flights. Bissen stated that more than 2,000 people were living in shelters as a result of the island’s three ongoing fires and that thirteen evacuations had taken place from various areas and municipalities.

“Local people have lost everything,” James Kunane Tokioka, the state’s director of business, economic development, and tourism, stated during the press conference. They lost their home and their animals, and it has devastated them. According to the mayor, dozens of buildings on Maui have been destroyed by fire.

The majority of them were located in Lahaina, the island’s oldest settlement and a major tourist and commercial center. The residence of Claire Kent was also located there. “It happened so fast,” she told CNN. “I heard the first explosions of the gas stations exploding and then I saw the black smoke a couple streets away and within half an hour we were out the door.”

Kent was staying at a friend’s house and was unable to retrieve his belongings from her place before the evacuation. “It never occurred to us that we wouldn’t be able to return,” she admitted. However, within an hour, the fire had engulfed the area, including the path Kent and her friends were using to escape. She described it as “like something out of a horror movie.”

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Bissen reported on Wednesday that helicopters were dropping water on Maui in an effort to douse the fires. The blazes have not been contained as of yet. ire officials said that on Wednesday, three brushfires were 60% contained on Hawaii’s Big Island, including one that threatened houses in one hamlet. The governor of Hawaii, who had been away on a private trip, announced on Wednesday that he would return immediately.

911 and Cell Service Disrupted

Hawaii’s lieutenant governor, Sylvia Luke, told CNN that wildfires had knocked out power and hampered 911 and other communication lines across the island on Wednesday, making search and rescue efforts more difficult.

“911 is down. Cell service is down. Phone service is down,” Luke said. “That’s been part of the problem, that Maui County has not been able to communicate with residents on the west side, Lahaina side.” The lieutenant governor added that satellite phones had been the only reliable way to contact several regions, including hotels.

About 117,000 people call the island their home. “Our hospital system on Maui, they are overburdened with burn patients, people suffering from inhalation,” she said. “The reality is that we need to fly people out of Maui to give them burn support because Maui hospital cannot do extensive burn treatment.”

The Maui Humane Society said on Facebook that thousands of animals had also been evacuated due to the fires, and they were appealing to locals who could foster pets to do so in order to create room for more animals, some of whom may have been injured. According to, the natural calamity has also caused the loss of electricity to over 12,000 buildings across Maui.

Several blocks were destroyed by the fire, leaving nothing but wreckage and ashes, and the entire area is still shrouded in a thick, hazy haze, as shown in video footage shot by Air Maui Helicopter Tours over the Lahaina neighborhood.

What we witnessed caught us off guard. Director of operations Richie Olsten told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday that the sight was “heartbreaking, it looked like an area that had been bombed in the war.” To quote the speaker: “It’s just destroyed.” “In my 52 years of flying on Maui, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” Olsten added.

Luke warned reporters on Wednesday that he was actively trying to dissuade tourists from visiting Maui. “Today we signed another emergency proclamation which will discourage tourists from going to Maui,” she said. “Even as of this morning, planes were landing on Maui with tourists. This is not a safe place to be.”

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What the Weather Looks Like Next?

The National Hurricane Center estimated Dora’s location on Wednesday to be about 860 miles southwest of Honolulu. Dora was a severe Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130 mph. There were no advisories or watches in force for the coast.

Meteorologist Ian Morrison from the National Weather Service office in Honolulu said that Tuesday will be the windiest day of the year in the state, with gusts of up to 80 miles per hour. However, such results are rapidly waning. Morrison said the winds have been decreasing since Wednesday and will continue to do so on Thursday and Friday.

“The worst of the winds are certainly behind them as the wind gusts will decrease into the 20 to 30 mph range on Thursday,” CNN Meteorologist Taylor Ward said. “Still breezy, but much better than the 50 to 80 mph gusts that were observed Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning.”

Morrison cautioned that “dropping winds doesn’t mean the fires will go away,” but that the reduction will likely aid firefighters in bringing the blazes under control. Ward predicts that the Big Island and Maui will see only isolated showers on the island’s eastern side this week.

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