Thousands flee as hurricane-fueled wildfires rip through Hawaiian islands

Out-of-control wildfires on Maui in Hawaii have forced thousands into emergency shelters, as state officials have declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to handle the disaster. via REUTERS

Hurricane-fueled wildfires swept through the Hawaiian islands on Wednesday, as officials declared a state of emergency and thousands fled their homes on Maui.

The flames grew so great that thousands fled to emergency shelters — the largest crammed with more than 1,000 people.

“It’s definitely one of the more challenging days for our island given that it’s multiple fires, multiple evacuations in different district areas,” Maui County spokeswoman Mahina Martin said. “This is so unprecedented. Right now it is all-hands-on-deck and we are anxious for daybreak.”

The flames are being fanned by the outskirts of Hurricane Dora, which raged about 500 miles to the south but packed enough punch to bring gusts of more than 60 mph to the islands, according to the National Weather Service.

About 14,500 Hawaiian Electric customers were without power late Tuesday, as officials were forced to evacuate portions of Maui, according to reports.

“Hawaii National Guardsmen have been activated and are currently on Maui assisting Maui Police Department at traffic control points,” Hawaii Adjutant General Kenneth Hara wrote in a Facebook post.

“This support was accelerated because of the rapidly changing conditions tonight,” he said. “More Hawaii Guardsmen will be supporting Maui and Hawaii Counties tomorrow.”

Social media posts captured the hellish devastation and human horror of the wildfires.

“Pray for Lahaina,” TikTok user mistah_mean wrote with dramatic footage from inside a car as it tries to navigate through the thick smoke in the ravaged town in northern Maui.

“This was sent in (anonymous) this was about an hour and a half ago,” he wrote. “On Maui. This person is saying it’s worse than what the news is showing.”

Two men can be heard coughing inside the car as they make their way through a traffic jam, the terrain around them resembling a hellish nightmare out of Dante’s Inferno.

“Somebody’s down right here!” one man is heard saying. “We cannot do nothing for her. Let’s go! Let’s go, people! Beep the horn.”

Another TikTok video taken from the ocean shows the coastline of Lahaina fully engulfed.

“Whatever you believe in, Lahaina needs it right now,” the post said.

In Maui, some victims had no choice but escape the smoke and flames by fleeing into the ocean, where they were plucked from the water by the US Coast Guard.

The state of emergency was declared by Acting Gov. Sylvia Luke, who has taken the state’s helm while Gov. Josh Green is traveling.

Officials said canceled flights stranded about 2,000 travelers at Kahului Airport in Maui.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a disaster declaration to provide help with one out-of-control fire that was threatening about 200 homes at Kohala Ranch on the Big Island.

The fire had already burned through more than 600 acres and still spreading at that point.

One local, Tiare Lawrence, said she was frantically trying to reach her family after they were forced to flee as the flames closed in on their home east of Lahaina.

“It was apocalyptic from what they explained,” Lawrence said. “The heat, smoke and flames everywhere.”

Publish : 2023-08-11 05:57:00

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