Emergency crews are currently assessing the extent of the damage caused by wildfires on Maui island. The disaster has tragically claimed the lives of at least 80 individuals, while thousands have been forced to flee their homes.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has suggested the possibility of housing survivors and responders at the Sheraton Hotel, which has 200 rooms available. However, the scale of the crisis is immense, with an estimated 4,500 people in need of shelter according to an evaluation posted on the County of Maui's Facebook page. Civil Air Patrol flyovers revealed that nearly all of the 1,692 structures destroyed were residential.
The Lahaina Harbour has also been impacted, with nine sunken boats confirmed through the utilization of sonar technology. Unfortunately, the repercussions of the wildfires have disrupted communication networks, as approximately 30 cell towers remain offline. Furthermore, power outages in the west Maui region are expected to persist for several weeks.
This disaster marks a somber milestone in Hawaii's history, surpassing even the toll of a 1960 tsunami that claimed 61 lives on the Big Island. Officials are diligently investigating how the flames managed to engulf the historic resort town with little forewarning. Residents like Erik Naylor recounted their harrowing escape, describing the destruction of their neighborhood and the gratitude for those who offered shelter.
"We got some pictures of our place from yesterday and it's just completely gone. Like, everything's gone," he said. "Completely decimated, our whole neighbourhood. But by God's grace, we have some people who gave us a place right here just in a town 30 minutes away,"
Search teams with cadaver dogs are working tirelessly to uncover any additional casualties within the fire-ravaged structures. The enormity of the destruction, which incinerated 1,000 buildings and left countless homeless, is likely to necessitate years of recovery efforts and substantial financial resources. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii expressed the unfortunate anticipation of a significant rise in the death toll.
As of late Friday, Maui County reported a death toll of 80 individuals. Although the Lahaina fire that originated from the brush has been largely contained at 85%, two other island wildfires are still partially raging at 80% and 50% containment. Fueled by winds from Hurricane Dora, which passed to the south of the island chain, these fires have inflicted severe damage, nearly obliterating the town of 13,000 residents. Survivors like Madelyn Barrett, who endured hours of terror during the intense winds and flames, recall the haunting experience from the safety of a friend's house in the nearby Kihei area.