Death toll rises to 67 in devastating Maui wildfires

Numerous still missing as rebuilding begins

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Saturday 12 August 2023 01:51 BST
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Satellite images show scale of destruction in Maui before and after wildfire

At least 67 people have died so far in a series of wildfires that devastated Maui this week, according to officials.

“One can safely say we do have wildfires every year but we’ve always been able to contain them,” Hawai’i Governor Josh Green told CNN on Friday. “Whether the variables are different this time or not, I’ve been in Hawaii for 23 years, but I have never seen the convergence of a fire, a hurricane, and gale force winds at the same time near one of our towns.”

An estimated 1,000 people may be missing, according to the Hawaiian Department of Defense, though they cautioned yesterday that that figure is unconfirmed.

An aerial image taken on August 10, 2023 shows destroyed homes and buildings burned to the ground in Lahaina along the Pacific Ocean in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui, Hawaii

Over 11,000 people have been evacuated as a result of the fires.

On Thursday, the Biden administration declared the wildfires, which burned areas across Maui, Hawai’i, and Oahu, a major federal disaster, freeing up additional relief resources.

More than 1,000 structures have been burned in the fires, according to officials.

The fires have caused particular damage on Maui, where much of the historic town of Lahiana was burnt to the ground.

The disaster is among the worst in state history, with the death toll now greater than the 61 people who died in a 1961 tsunami.

The fire began on Tuesday, fuelled by strong winds and a climate-driven, unusually dry summer conditions on Maui that left many residents and visitors in Lahaina with little time to take precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones and neighbours safe. Some people fled the town with few possessions, while others dived into water.

At least a dozen people were pulled out of the water by the US Coast Guard.

“During emergencies, the best way the public can help is to provide monetary donations which allows the delivery of the exact relief supplies a community needs,” Victor Leonardi, divisional director of emergency services and safety for The Salvation Army Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division, said in a news release. “Plus, The Salvation Army uses one hundred per cent of all donations designated ‘disaster relief’ in support of disaster operations.”

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who lives in Hawai’i part-time, has also pledged $100m to the rebuilding effort.

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