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People are jumping into the ocean to escape Hawaii wildfires on Maui

‘Apocalyptic’ wildfires sweeping through historic seaside town of Lahaina force residents into the ocean

Bevan Hurley
Wednesday 09 August 2023 15:26 BST
Roadside devastated by Hurricane Dora and wildfire in Hawaii

The US Coast Guard has rescued 12 people who jumped into the ocean to escape flames and smoke from one of several wildfires burning out of control across Hawaii, officials say.

Evacuations are underway across multiple Hawaiian islands after wildfires fuelled by 70mph (112kms) wind gusts from Hurricane Dora destroyed buildings, cut off power to 15,000 residents and burned through thousands of acres.

A dozen residents were pulled from the water off the coast of Lahaina, on Maui, after “entering the ocean due to smoke and fire conditions”, according to a Maui County emergency alert.

They were transported to “safe areas” by a US Coast Goard (USCG) 45-foot rapid response vessel.

Dramatic footage posted to social media showed “apocalyptic” fires sweeping through apartments and shops along the Lahaina waterfront.

The USCG also sent in an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and the Joseph Gerczak fast response cutter to assist with the rescue effort.

Acting Governor Sylvia Luke has issued an emergency proclamation to provide relief to devastated areas of Maui and Hawaii counties.

On Maui, three large fires are raging around Lahaina, the first capital of Hawaii, at a popular tourist resort area near Kihei Kalama Village, and in the inland mountainous region of Kula.

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen told the Associated Press that about 80 people were evacuated from 40 homes around Kula.

No deaths have been reported, but a firefighter who was battling the West Maui fire was taken to hospital after suffering smoke inhalation, according to officials. He is in stable condition.

A large fire burning on the northern side of Big Island has destroyed about 1800 acres of land, and is not yet contained, according to officials. The extent of the damage is not yet known.

Efforts to control several wildfires on Maui have been hampered by erratic winds from Hurricane Dora (The Maui News)

Strong winds forced firefighting helicopters to be grounded for safety precautions overnight on Tuesday, and continue to play havoc with rescue efforts.

Maui Fire officials have warned that erratic wind, challenging terrain, steep slopes and dropping humidity, are making it difficult to predict path and speed of a wildfire.

“The fire can be a mile or more from your house, but in a minute or two, it can be at your house,” Fire Assistant Chief Jeff Giesea said in a statement.

The American Red Cross has set up emergency shelters at Maui High School, Kihei, Lahaina and Pukalani.

The climate crisis has created warmer, dryer conditions that are increasing the risk and extent of wildfires across the western United States, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Conditions.

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