On Tuesday, a raging wildfire on Maui destroyed most of the seaside town of Lahaina, forcing some residents to jump into the sea to escape.
According to Hawaii Governor Josh Green, the fire was driven by “hurricane-force winds in the region and underlying drought conditions.” Hurricane Dora is passing by Hawaii to the south, whipping the islands with extreme winds without dropping any rain. The effects of the wind propelled the Lahaina fire forwards so quickly that first responders could do little to prevent the town’s destruction. Six people have been confirmed dead and at least three others have been hospitalized for serious burns.
Utter devastation left by the wildfires in Maui, Hawaï. It is far from hyperbole to say that Lahaina has been wiped off the map.
Credit: Vince Carter pic.twitter.com/dlwxTNY51R
— Nahel Belgherze (@WxNB_) August 9, 2023
According to local media, the U.S. Coast Guard dispatched responders to the waterfront in Lahaina’s Boat Harbor to rescue people who had jumped into the water to escape the fire. About one dozen people were pulled from the sea by a rescue boat, which transited over from Station Maui in nearby Maalaea.
Gusts of up to 80 miles per hour made helicopter operations unsafe for Coast Guard and Navy aviation on Tuesday, according to officials with the County of Maui. With wind conditions improving Wednesday, SAR helicopter operators have joined the damage assessment and relief efforts.
The scene in Lahaina, Maui this morning is absolutely devastating.
The entire town is being destroyed by an intense wildfire, forcing residents to sheek shelter in the ocean.
Make no mistake, climate change is making scenes like this more frequent. pic.twitter.com/dttFnAwEeJ
— Edgar McGregor (@edgarrmcgregor) August 9, 2023
New video from Front Street shows virtually all of downtown Lahaina has been burned down. pic.twitter.com/i4ViDhz8K7
— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) August 9, 2023
Photos from Lahaina taken overnight Tuesday show near-complete devastation across the popular tourist town, with charred debris floating on the water and burned-out cars along the waterfront. One aerial video taken the morning after showed a boat still burning outside of the town’s small harbor.
Response and recovery efforts will take time. About 2,000 evacuated residents are sheltering at local high schools and community centers, and another 2,000 tourists and travelers packed the local airport in an attempt to depart. Hawaii’s governor has asked for tourists to avoid voluntary travel to the area in order to conserve resources for residents in distress. With supermarkets, stores and basic infrastructure destroyed in Lahaina, basic goods are in limited supply, including gas and food.
This is what it looked like earlier on Maui. If you’ve been to my hometown of Lahaina…I fear it is no longer. I dread what it will look like in the morning. An apocalyptic scene is unfolding due to the fires raging across my island. Please pray for us. pic.twitter.com/88V2kjjpyV
— HawaiiDelilah™ ???? (@HawaiiDelilah) August 9, 2023
The disaster is not yet over: wildland firefighters are still battling at least six other blazes across Maui and the Big Island, and a “red flag” fire risk warning remains in effect for Maui through tomorrow.