Paradise Ablaze, Thousands Flee As Fire Rips Through Maui

At least six lives have been claimed and 20 people gravely injured in the Maui wildfires referred to by Lt. Governor Sylvie Luke as “an unprecedented disaster”. Evacuation efforts are underway and thousands of tourists remain stuck on the island, desperate to leave before the fires spread any further.

In the town of Lahaina, community members scrambled to the water in the harbor to escape the flames. Twelve people were rescued from the waves by boats. Aerial footage shows the full extent of the damage in the area, with many residents losing “everything”.

“This is the scariest thing I have ever experienced. So incredibly devastated,” said Claire Kent who had to evacuate or face being trapped.

Multiple burn patients were flown out of Maui to Honolulu to receive care and, as the fires rage on, 911 services have been wiped out due to downed cell towers.

Gov. Josh Green is now returning to the islands and is due to arrive at midnight. “We have suffered a terrible disaster in the form of a wildfire that has spread widely,” the Lt. Governor stated. “Much of Lāhainā on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced.”

In Kula, central Maui, the fire is near where Oprah recently purchased hundreds of acres of land. 911 services in much of Maui are down, hampering evacuation efforts and prompting the county to deploy individuals with satellite phones. Meanwhile, doctors and nurses are struggling to cope with the number of burn patients.

“This is so unprecedented,” Maui County spokesperson Mahina Martin said in the early morning hours. “An emergency in the night is terrifying… it’s impeding communication. It’s impeding efforts to evacuate residents and we are very concerned about that.”

Acting Governor Sylvia Luke has issued an emergency proclamation and activated the Hawaii National Guard to respond to the situation. Fire chiefs warned residents to evacuate their homes as soon as possible, with Assistant Chief Jeff Giesea noting that “[i]n a minute or two, it can be at your house.”

The worst of the fires are on Maui, with one torching part of northern Wailea – home to tourist hotels – and another destroying the town of Lahaina. In total, 13,000 customers in Maui are without power and the strong winds from Hurricane Dora are only making matters worse.

The situation in Maui is devastating and the local community is struggling to come to terms with the enormity of the tragedy. Gov. Josh Green is due to arrive in the islands tonight and it remains to be seen what actions he will take to support Hawaii in this difficult time.

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