Hawaii’s Historic Lahaina Town Devastated by Wildfire, at Least 36 Dead

The picturesque town of Lahaina on the island of Maui, Hawaii, has been ravaged by wildfires fueled by hurricane winds, resulting in significant loss of life and property. The fires have claimed at least twenty-six lives, according to Maui County officials. The local hospital system is struggling to cope with the influx of patients suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii expressed his concern on social media, stating that Lahaina is “almost totally burnt to the ground”. He added that firefighters are still battling to control the fires while first responders are engaged in search and rescue operations. Reports emerged on Wednesday that some residents had jumped into the ocean to escape the rapidly advancing flames. The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed the rescue of at least a dozen people from the water.

The extent of the damage in Lahaina, a town of approximately 12,000 residents, is still being assessed. Many homes and businesses have been completely destroyed, according to Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. One local resident reported that every boat in the town harbor was ablaze. The death toll may rise, officials warned, and around 2,100 people have been displaced.

The wildfires have also disrupted essential services. Almost 13,000 people were without power on Maui, and thousands were without cell phone service due to the fires. Emergency 911 services in West Maui were down on Wednesday. Officials reported that three large fires remain active and out of control on Maui, with several more burning on the Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island.

The National Weather Service attributed the intensity of the fires to Hurricane Dora, which, although it passed Hawaii at a distance, brought with it gusts of above 60 mph (97km/h), coupled with low humidity levels. President Joe Biden has pledged federal assistance to Hawaii as it battles the flames and continues with rescue efforts. He added that the Department of Transportation is working to evacuate tourists from Maui, with about 4,000 visitors trying to leave the island.

Lahaina, a historic town on the western tip of Maui, is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Its center dates back to the 1700s. Maui, the second largest island of the Hawaiian archipelago in the northern Central Pacific, is located more than 3,200km (2,000 miles) from the U.S. mainland. It is a popular tourist destination, attracting 2.9 million visitors last year.