Death Toll Hits 36 in Maui Fires

'All of Lahaina is burnt to a crisp. It's like an apocalypse'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2023 5:02 AM CDT
Updated Aug 10, 2023 6:11 AM CDT
Death Toll Hits 36 in Maui Fires
The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames along Wainee Street on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii.   (Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via AP)

At least 36 people have died in wildfires in Hawaii, officials say, making the Maui fires one of the deadliest disasters in the state's history. The office of Maui Mayor Richard Blissen confirmed the death toll Wednesday night and said it is likely to rise, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Dozens of people have been injured, including at least three who were flown to a burn center in Honolulu. Three major wildfires are still burning on the island, including the one that destroyed a large part of the historic town of Lahaina, former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, reports NBC News. Authorities say at least 271 structures were damaged or destroyed.

The Lahaina fire, driven by winds from Hurricane Dora, devastated entire blocks of the town. Some people jumped in the ocean to escape the flames and were rescued by the Coast Guard. Richard Olsten, a tour company helicopter pilot, tells the AP that he flew over the site Wednesday and it looked like a bomb had gone off, with even boats in the harbor burned. "It's horrifying. I've flown here 52 years and I've never seen anything come close to that," he says. "We had tears in our eyes, the other pilots on board and the mechanics and me." Authorities say around 11,000 tourists have been evacuated from Maui, including thousands who spent the night at the island's main airport.

"We just had the worst disaster I've ever seen. All of Lahaina is burnt to a crisp. It's like an apocalypse," Lahaina resident Mason Jarvi tells Reuters. Jarvi says he suffered burns to his thigh when he rode his electric bike through flames to rescue his dog. Major General Kenneth S. Hara said Wednesday night that the fires are now contained, but with periodic flare-ups, the New York Times reports. He said workers are distributing water and trying to restore communications on the island. Many people are still unaccounted for and the search and rescue effort is continuing, authorities say. (More Hawaii stories.)

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