The Hawaiian island of Maui has been ravished by multiple wildfires.
The historic whaling village and tourist destination, Lahaina Town, has particularly been hit hard with “unprecedented” damage. According to CNN, locals report that parts of West Maui’s largest community are “completely destroyed.” Other affected areas include the North and South Koala Districts.
The fires have so far resulted in 36 deaths. Maui hospitals have also been overwhelmed with an influx of patients being treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
Hawaii Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke, acting as governor in the absence of Josh Green, stated that the original casualty number of six was “just the beginning, initial assessment.”
The true cost of devastation, both in human and monetary costs, cannot be accurately estimated at this time.
The fires have made ongoing search and rescue efforts difficult, as power outages, transportation, and communication have been severely impacted. The Coast Guard has also rescued some who sought refuge from the flames by jumping in the Pacific Ocean. Boat owners are being asked to assist in the “apocalyptic” scene.
At least 2,100 are in shelters after residents and tourists at resorts are being evacuated, with some individuals still unaccounted for.
Efforts to contain the fires had been hindered by 70 to 80-mile-per-hour winds from Hurricane Dora, difficult terrain, and unusually low humidity. A third of the island has also been experiencing a drought, which coincides with the spread of the flames.
Nonessential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged. American and United Airlines have canceled inbound flights to Kahului Airport, but they are operating flights from the Big Island to assist with evacuation efforts. Hawaiian Airlines, Delta, Southwest, and Alaska Airlines are also offering customers with flights booked to Maui waivers to change their travel plans without penalty.
The U.S. Military, National Guard, and Honolulu firefighters have been assisting Maui’s first responders.
President Joe Biden issued a statement offering condolences and has since issued a disaster declaration.