A teenager who jumped in the ocean to flee the deadly wildfires in Hawaii has said his family probably would have died if they hadn’t stuck together.
Noah Tomkinson, 19, was with his younger brother Milo, 13, and their mother in the historic town of Lahaina when the flames began to spread dangerously close.
They jumped into the Pacific Ocean where they waded in the water for five hours.
“We kind of had it in the back of our minds the whole time that we wanted to be next to the water so [when] things got really bad we could save ourselves by jumping into the ocean, and that is what it came to,” Mr Tomkinson said.
“If we’d walked across the street we would have been in the fire.”
Mr Tomkinson said he and his brother huddled around their mother to keep her warm.
“We didn’t save her, she also saved us.
“If any of us were alone I don’t know if we would have made it.
“It was the fact that all of us were together that helped us the most.”
Milo said: “I was just trying to survive, I was in survival mode.”
Once the flames had died down the family decided it was safe enough to go back to the shore.
‘It looked like something out of a war movie’
Mike and Andreza Cicchino also had a dramatic escape from the fires in Lahaina.
The couple, who own a dog-sitting company, loaded five of the dogs they were looking after into a truck when they saw nearby houses on fire.
“It was pretty intense, you could see everybody running for their lives, people crying, people handing their babies to other people,” Mr Cicchino told Sky News.
He described chaos as “the smoke got so intense, we didn’t even know where to go” and the emergency services did not know where to send people, leading people to get stuck in traffic amid blocked roads.
They had to abandon their vehicle only to find they were surrounded by fire ahead of them and behind them.
He said they then took cover behind a seawall, which “protected us for most of the night”.
“We had to keep going out in the water, coming back in. We were even getting burnt in the water. There were times when the smoke cleared and I ran down to help other people, I tried to help as many people as I could. There’s babies and people that we never saw again. There’s bodies and people burnt.
“It looked like something out of a war movie. Like a bomb just went off in our town.
“During the whole time when we were hiding from the fire, just imagine hiding behind the wall with a giant blowtorch going over that wall. So you have 70mph fires, even on the other side of that wall you’re crunching down and the fire is still hitting you. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of our life.
“There’s times we didn’t think we were going to survive. We were going to pass out from just the smoke inhalation. The whole ordeal that we went through was at least 12 hours.”
Ms Cicchino said she struggled because she is not a good swimmer, adding: “It was horrible. I am traumatised.”
The couple were able to save four out of five of the dogs.
At least 93 people have been confirmed dead after the wildfires in Hawaii – with the state’s governor warning the figure will rise.
It makes the disaster the deadliest wildfire the US has seen in the past century, surpassing the 85 who died in California’s Camp Fire in 2018.
Governor Josh Green told reporters it had been “an impossible day” on Saturday but that fire crews and police had been “extraordinary”.
He said it was the largest natural disaster the US state had ever faced.
It comes as workers use axes and dogs to search through charred remains of properties on Lahaina on the island of Maui.
Ruined homes are being marked with an orange X for an initial search and HR if human remains have been found.
Authorities are urging people with missing family members to give DNA samples to help authorities identify victims.