Wildfires in Maui have killed over 50 people, leaves neighborhoods in ashes

Wildfires in Maui have killed over 50 people, leaves neighborhoods in ashes
The horrific flames that have scorched Maui for three days have killed at least 53 people, officials said Thursday, and the figure is expected to rise as search teams enter neighborhoods and homes that have been left to ashes.

Officials say the wreckage is so widespread - and so devastating - that it's difficult to estimate how many buildings were destroyed or damaged, but they think hundreds of properties were hit.

The "older neighborhood" of Lahaina, an economic engine in western Maui that drew millions of tourists each year, has been devastated, according to Maui County Mayor Richard T. Bissen Jr. at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

"It's all gone," he declared.

With no electricity or cell coverage in western Maui, officials are unsure how many people who may have attempted to flee are still missing.

"What we saw was most likely the largest natural disaster in Hawaii's state history," Gov. Josh Green said after touring Lahaina on Thursday. "Everyone of us will have a loved one here on Maui who has lost a house or a friend."

With 53 deaths, the inferno that ravaged Lahaina's historic areas would be the second deadliest in the United States in a century. It would be second only to the Camp Fire in California, which killed 85 people in 2018.

With thousands of individuals now without a place to stay, Green urged hotels and homeowners throughout the state to open their rooms and homes to those who have been affected.

"If you have additional space in your home, if you have the capacity to take someone in from west Maui, please do," the governor added. "Please consider bringing those people into your lives."

Dustin Kaleiopu, whose Lahaina home was damaged, is one of them. "My colleagues, friends, and family - we're all homeless," Kaleiopu explained.

Earlier in the day, the governor informed CNN that "upwards of 1,700 buildings" had been destroyed.

And the fires on the island are still raging. By Thursday morning, local time, Maui County officials estimated that the fire that destroyed Lahaina was 80% extinguished. Officials reported Thursday that none of the other flames on the island had been completely extinguished.

Those who survived describe perilous escapes by car or boat amid heavy smoke, while others rushed into the water to avoid being incinerated as the fires expanded Tuesday. The Coast Guard rescued at least 17 individuals from the water and 40 more from the land, according to a news release, adding that search and rescue operations are still ongoing.
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