55 Die, More Missing As Fire Razes US Town

The number of people killed in the Hawaii wildfires which started Thursday rose to 55 yesterday, and hundreds more were said to be missing on the island of Maui.

Lahaina is a census-designated place in Maui County, Hawaii, United States, and includes the Kaanapali and Kapalua beach resorts. As of the 2020 census, Lahaina had a resident population of 12,702.

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State governor Josh Green called the fires “catastrophic”, and probably the largest natural disaster in Hawaii’s history.

Residents of the historic town spoke of losing their homes; one man told the BBC all that was left of the local history was “ash and dust”.

Firefighters continued to battle the flames yesterday, and nearly 15,000 tourists took flights away from Maui on Thursday.

Fires began on the island on Tuesday, fueled by winds from a hurricane, later prompting a “major disaster” declaration from President Joe Biden.

President Biden and Kamala Harris will not travel immediately to Maui because they do not want to distract from the ongoing rescue effort, Vice President Harris said yesterday.

Fires were still burning yesterday and search and rescue teams were still operating, but residents in the worst-affected places would be able to return to their homes yesterday, the state’s governor said.

Governor Josh Green told a morning news show on Hawaii’s KHON-TV: “Lahaina is a devastated zone. They will see destruction like they’ve not ever seen in their lives,” warned the governor, who visited the town yesterday. “Be very safe, be very careful.”

Around 11,000 people are still without power, and the current death toll of 55 is expected to climb. The 55 confirmed deaths are of people found outside, and the search inside burned structures has yet to begin.

While the exact cause of the remains unclear, high winds, dry conditions and low humidity exacerbated the flames fatally.

The governor and mayor of Maui County said they had received generous help from Biden so far, but that they were still waiting for FEMA to arrive with hazmat crews who can begin searching buildings for bodies.

Source: BBC, CNN, The Mail

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