This week, Hawaii experienced catastrophic wildfires that were exacerbated by powerful winds originating from Hurricane Dora. The conflagrations wreaked havoc by obliterating numerous structures, compelling individuals to flee towards the ocean in search of safety.
Both residents and tourists in the Upcountry and Lahaina regions of West Maui found themselves in the dire necessity of evacuation. In a desperate bid to escape the engulfing smoke and flames, some sought refuge by plunging into the ocean waters. On Tuesday, Maui County officials communicated that the U.S. Coast Guard effectively executed rescue operations, successfully transferring the evacuees to designated secure zones.
Responding to the escalating crisis, Mayor Richard T. Bissen of Maui County enacted an emergency proclamation on Tuesday, resulting in multiple evacuation directives being set in place. Local officials were quick to alert residents on Tuesday that 911 services were inaccessible in West Maui, and advised them to directly contact the Lahaina Police Department for any urgent emergencies.
The situation grew even graver on Wednesday, with Maui County confirming a heartbreaking count of no less than 36 fatalities.
Striking images documented on both Tuesday and Wednesday by Instagram user @lei_dubzz starkly display the infernos raging through Lahaina, along with the aftermath that ensued. In these visuals, the majority of structures appear to have been irrevocably reduced to ashes.
Fire experts issued an earnest warning, highlighting the capricious nature of the fierce winds that were carrying the fire far beyond anticipated boundaries.
“Within mere moments, the blaze can progress from being over a mile away from your residence to knocking at your doorstep,” articulated Maui Fire Assistant Chief Jeff Giesea in a poignant statement. “Combustible airborne materials possess the capacity to kindle secondary fires at significant distances from the primary inferno.”
Acting on behalf of Governor Josh Green, M.D., Acting Governor Sylvia Luke declared a state of emergency for both Maui and Hawaiʻi Counties on Tuesday.
Lieutenant Governor Luke expressed their vigilance in closely monitoring the wildfires, which were the unwelcome consequence of Hurricane Dora’s ferocious winds. “Safeguarding the well-being of our inhabitants is paramount,” stated Luke, underlining the proclamation’s mobilization of the Hawaiʻi National Guard to offer invaluable support to the emergency response teams stationed within the afflicted communities.
Officials underscored that Governor Green has been exhaustively briefed on the unfolding situation spurred by Hurricane Dora and the ensuing blazes. Green articulated his full endorsement of Lieutenant Governor Luke’s actions, expressing his solidarity with those impacted by the tumultuous events brought forth by Hurricane Dora.
As of now, Maui County remains in the midst of investigating the origin of the conflagrations that have wrought such devastation.