Paradise lost: Shocking scale of devastation to Maui revealed as Hawaii wildfire death toll reaches 55 with hundreds missing

11 August 2023, 16:03

Parts of Maui have been destroyed be a devastating fire
Parts of Maui have been destroyed be a devastating fire. Picture: Getty/Hawaii Wing Civil Air Patrol

By Will Taylor

Shocking photos show the scale of the devastation in the historic Hawaiian tourist resort of Lahaina.

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At least 55 people have died after fires broke out in Hawaii and devastated part of the island of Maui, with the state's governor warning the death toll will continue to rise.

At least 14,000 people have fled since Tuesday, with another 14,500 expected to be gone by the end of today. Some 11,000 people are still without power on the island.

Around 80 per cent of Lahaina, a popular tourist town on the island's west coast, is "gone", according to the state's governor Josh Green.

More than 1,000 buildings are destroyed and it could take years to completely rebuild, as President Joe Biden declared a major disaster.

Shocking photos show the devastation of the wildfires, which were made worse by hurricane winds fanning the flames.

They turned a paradise into a hellscape within hours.

Lahaina has been devastated by wildfires
Lahaina has been devastated by wildfires. Picture: Getty
The coast has been ravaged by fire
The coast has been ravaged by fire. Picture: Getty

They show neighbourhoods completely levelled, lying in smouldering ruins, with ruins of houses burned up trees lining scorched streets.

Aerial pictures show the black, torched town - a former capital of Hawaii with buildings dating back as as far as the 1700s - contrasts with the vibrant blue of the Pacific Ocean.

Some 1,000 people were missing as rescuers race to find survivors.

The tourist resorted has been destroyed
The tourist resorted has been destroyed. Picture: Getty
Lahaina was razed by flames
Lahaina was razed by flames. Picture: Getty

Residents and visitors fled to evacuation shelters while some were cut off by the fires and had to jump into the ocean in the hope the Coast Guard could rescue them.

Others were led to safety through the burning town by firefighters.

About 15,000 tourists flew out of the island on Thursday.

Mr Green described it as a "heartbreaking day" as he warned the death roll will likely exceed the 61 lives lost after a tsunami in 1960.

"What we've seen today has been catastrophic, but we tell you there's going to be a team effort to bring our state back," Mr Green told reporters.

Read More: Hawaiian paradise wiped out: At least 36 dead and thousands homeless after wildfires tear through island of Maui

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"I know the question on your mind is: when can I get back to my home?" Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said - telling people to wait until "we have recovered those that have perished".

"Please allow us to complete this process before we allow people back into their homes," Mr Bissen added.

Cars have been torched across Lahaina
Cars have been torched across Lahaina. Picture: Hawaii Wing Civil Air Patrol
Maui has been engulfed by wildfires
Maui has been engulfed by wildfires. Picture: Alamy
The wildfires broke out in Maui
The wildfires broke out in Maui. Picture: Google Maps

Kamuela Kawaakoa, who evacuated to a shelter on Tuesday with his partner and son, six, said: "We barely made it out in time. It was so hard to sit there and just watch my town burn to ashes and not be able to do anything.

"I was helpless."

Mr Biden tweeted: "Our prayers are with those whose homes, businesses, and communities are destroyed.

Waiola Church and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission ignite in Lahaina
Waiola Church and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission ignite in Lahaina. Picture: Alamy

"I have ordered all available federal assets on the Islands to help with response.

"And I urge all residents to continue to follow evacuation orders, listen to the instructions of first responders and officials, and stay alert."

Hawaii has set ablaze
Hawaii has set ablaze. Picture: Alamy

Other parts of the Hawaiian islands have suffered wildfires in recent days.

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