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

10 August 2023, 10:29

Maui, in Hawaii, is ablaze after a hurricane fanned the flames
Maui, in Hawaii, is ablaze after a hurricane fanned the flames. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

At least 36 people have died after fires broke out in Hawaii and devastated a popular tourist destination.

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Thousands of people fled their homes on the island of Maui as a state of emergency was declared.

Hundreds of buildings, some dating to the 1700s, have been destroyed as a hurricane helped fan the flames.

Many people are missing as rescuers race to find survivors and helicopters dump water over the fires in a bid to bring them under control.

Evacuation shelters have been overrun with people as dozens were taken to hospital, and at least three people suffered critical burns.

Maui mayor Richard Bissen Jr said: "The gravity of losing any life is tragic. As we grieve with their families, we offer prayers for comfort in this inconsolable time.

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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

"Our main focus now is to save lives."

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."

President Joe 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."

Buildings in tourist hotspot Lahaina, on the coast, were razed to the ground as smoking rubble piled up at the water. It is thought almost 300 buildings have been damaged or destroyed.

A tour helicopter pilot, Richard Olsten, said: "It's horrifying. I've flown here 52 years and I've never seen anything come close to this."

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

He told Sky News: "Basically, the whole Front Street of Lahaina, all the shops, the historical buildings, everything, has been burnt right to the ground.

"There are hundreds of people homeless, there's still no power in the whole town, people can't get access to food, so it was just an absolutely heart-wrenching site.

"And the really sad part about it too is the loss of the historical buildings on Front Street that can't be rebuilt - so that whole area is levelled to the ground."

Some in Lahaina even fled to the ocean, with the Coast Guard pulling 12 people from the sea.

The area is a popular tourist destination and an important historical site, having once served as the Hawaii's capital.

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