At least six dead after wildfires destroy large parts of town on Hawaiian island

World

At least six people have died after wildfires rampaged through parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui, officials have said.

Fires, fuelled by the wind, have swept across the town of Lahaina, West Maui, leading to 13 evacuations, mayor Richard Bissen Jr said.

“Our main focus now is to save lives,” Mr Bissen said.

It comes after three residents were left with critical burns after being forced to jump into the ocean, as wildfires affected the popular shopping and dining area known as Front Street.

Posting on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday, the Coast Guard said 12 people had been rescued from the water off Lahaina.

Hawaii
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Pic: AP


The Coast Guard responded to areas where people had fled into the ocean to escape the fire and smoky conditions, the county said in a statement on Tuesday.

The governor of Hawaii, Josh Green, said on Wednesday that “loss of life is expected”.

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“We have suffered a terrible disaster in the form of a wildfire that has spread widely as a result of hurricane-force winds in the region and underlying drought conditions,” he said.

Intersection at Hokiokio Place and Lahaina Bypass in Maui. Pic: AP
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Intersection at Hokiokio Place and Lahaina Bypass in Maui. Pic: AP

“Maui and the Big Island both experienced significant fires. Much of Lahaina on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced.”

At least 20 other patients were taken to Maui Memorial Medical Centre on Tuesday, Speedy Bailey, regional director for air-ambulance company Hawaii Life Flight, said.

Smoke from wildfires at Lahaina harbour
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Smoke from wildfires at Lahaina harbour. Pic: AP

Lahiana harbour. Pic: AP
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Pic: AP

Footage posted overnight showed flames affecting numerous buildings in the historic town centre, which dates back to the 1700s, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some blocks of buildings were completely reduced to ash.

“Do NOT go to Lahaina Town,” was posted online by the county, hours before all roads in and out of West Maui’s biggest community were closed to everyone except emergency personnel.

Wildfires driven by high winds hit Hawaiian island of Maui. Pic:Dustin Johnson
Image:
Pic: Dustin Johnson

An evacuation shelter was also put in place to avoid people adding to the traffic.

Kahului Airport, the main airport in Maui, was sheltering 2,000 passengers who had their flights cancelled or had only recently arrived at the island, the county said.

The National Weather Service said Hurricane Dora, which was passing to the south of the island chain, was partly to blame for gusts above 60mph (97kph).

A charred boat lies in the scorched waterfront. Pic: Mason Jarvi
Image:
A charred boat lies in the scorched waterfront. Pic: Mason Jarvi

The wind knocked out electricity, rattled homes and grounded firefighting helicopters. Flights resumed on Wednesday as the strong winds somewhat diminished.

Hawaii’s Big Island was also affected by fires, although no injures or destroyed homes had been reported.

Mayor Mitch Roth said one fire is “pretty much under control,” another is 60% contained, and a third, near the hotel Mauna Kea Resorts continued to flare-up.

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