Tragedy struck the picturesque city of Lahaina on Hawaii’s Maui island as devastating wildfires, driven by winds from a distant hurricane, wreaked havoc, leaving at least 36 people dead, according to a statement from Maui County on Wednesday. This serene resort town has been transformed into a scene of destruction, with multiple neighborhoods reduced to ashes and a trail of devastation in their wake.
The island’s western side, where Lahaina is situated, has been severely impacted, leading to near-complete isolation as only one highway remains open. The scope of the disaster prompted the largest city in the area, Yellowknife, to declare an emergency and initiate widespread evacuation efforts. As the relentless flames advanced, some residents resorted to seeking refuge in the ocean to escape the thick smoke and flames.
Mason Jarvi, a resident of Lahaina, described the catastrophic scene, stating, “We just had the worst disaster I’ve ever seen. All of Lahaina is burned to a crisp. It’s like an apocalypse.” He captured images of the devastation, revealing the ashen landscape along the waterfront. Jarvi’s harrowing escape involved navigating through flames on his electric bike to save his dog, leaving him with blisters on his thigh.
The destructive wildfires were exacerbated by the winds from Hurricane Dora, hundreds of miles away to the southwest. Despite the cancellation of the “Red Flag Warning” and “High Wind Advisory” by the National Weather Service, firefighting efforts continue, with authorities acknowledging the long road to recovery ahead.
As pillars of smoke rise from Lahaina, which is renowned for being a major tourist destination and home to several large hotels, the extent of the disaster becomes evident. With firefighters battling three major blazes, evacuation and emergency workers have limited access to the western part of Maui.
The heartbreaking events unfolding in Hawaii mirror a summer marked by wildfires across the globe, driven by record-setting heat and exacerbated by human-caused climate change. The response from various federal agencies, including the National Guard, US Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, underscores the urgent need for coordinated efforts in the face of these devastating natural disasters.