Apocalyptic scenes from Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii, as the islands have suddenly been consumed in flames as hurricane-force winds spread brush fires, and people were driven to jump into the ocean to escape the overwhelming smoke and flames.
A state of disaster has been declared, and the Hawaii National Guard is evacuating as many people as they can, as massive wildfires in Hawaii have consumed more than 1,000 acres on Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii, according to the Washington Post. A combination of dry conditions and hurricane-force winds from Hurricane Dora have led the fires to spread quickly. Downed and destroyed power lines have left a reported 15,0000 Hawaiians without power, and schools have been suddenly transformed into evacuation centers.
Wildfire has engulfed businesses on Front Street in downtown Lahaina in West Maui, home to 12,000 people.— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) August 9, 2023
The Coast Guard is responding to people who were forced to go into the ocean due to the flames.
Video credit to Alan Dickar, a local resident of Lahaina. pic.twitter.com/8uiyHQP55B
“It’s definitely one of the more challenging days for our island given that it’s multiple fires, multiple evacuations in the different district areas,” County of Maui spokesperson Mahina Martin told the Associated Press Tuesday night.
Maps from NASA on Wednesday showed brush fires on Maui, including in the North Kohala, South Kohala, Kula and Lahaina areas, and on the Big Island that have burned at least 1,000 acres. https://t.co/mOnokcD4A0— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) August 9, 2023
According to the Chronicle, flames have consumed more than 1,000 acres in the North Kohala, South Kohala, Kula and Lahaina areas. And in the historic city of Lahaina on the Maui Island, the Coast Guard says they had to rescue 12 people who were chased into the water because of the overwhelming blazes and smoke on land.
Also, on Wednesday, authorities confirmed there had been at least six deaths attributed to the fires. Update: By Thursday morning, the death toll had risen to at least 36.
Update on Hawaii fires:— Tom Chapman 🇺🇸🏳️🌈 (@realTomChapman) August 9, 2023
Evacuations underway for parts of Maui & the big island.
Frantic locals jumped into the ocean to escape the blaze & were rescued by the coast guard.
The historic town of Lahaina has been consumed in flames. pic.twitter.com/2CQWo8qZI1
Extremely dangerous wildfire situation is ongoing in West Maui as strong winds up to 60 mph are pushing flames toward populated areas in and around Lahaina.— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) August 9, 2023
Heavy traffic is obviously complicating evacuation efforts, as are the winds of up to 60 miles per hour.
HAWAII INFERNO— CBS News Bay Area (@KPIXtv) August 9, 2023
"Maui can't handle this ... This is going to be devastating for Maui." https://t.co/p3eoajjEcM
KPIX reports winds were as strong as 80 miles per hour on inland Maui on Tuesday. And because of those winds, helicopters and planes have not been able to drop water from the sky. Nor have they been able to gauge the true number of fires, and those fires' size.
One couple was in tears at the Oakland airport trying to get back home to Maui see if their home was still standing and their pets still alive. https://t.co/8HRigMwvov— KTVU (@KTVU) August 9, 2023
And there are Bay Area connections, as KTVU reports on Hawaiian visitors scrambling to get home from Bay Area airports, not even sure what may be left of their homes. "We live right off of Lahaina Luna, we have a house and our dogs are stuck in the house," traveler Steff Kirkman told KTVU, while stuck at the Oakland airport. "We don't know if our house is up. We don't know if our animals are alive or not so we're heading back now."
There is some hope conditions could improve soon. While winds are expected to be 50 miles per hour until 6 p.m. Wednesday night (which is 9 p.m. Pacific Time), weather officials expect wind gusts to weaken, and moisture levels to rise through Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
There have fortunately been no reported deaths thus far, though there’s certainly more hardship ahead for the islands. The AP reports that one West Maui firefighter has been hospitalized for smoke inhalation, and was in stable condition as of Tuesday.
Image: Alan Dickar via @US_Stormwatch on Twitter