In a horrific scene, strong winds and dry conditions escalated brush fires across Hawaii, annihilating large parts of the historical town of Maui, and forcing locals and tourists to plunge into the ocean for safety this Tuesday.
Lahaina, located on the island’s northwest side, became the epicenter of chaos as the uncontrolled blaze drove people into the harbor to evade the fire, as reported by Hawaii News Now.
The vicinity of Front Street, a commercial hub that witnessed significant damage, saw the Coast Guard deploying helicopters and boats to save at least twelve individuals stranded in the water.
In a statement, Maui County officials declared, “The Coast Guard has been responding to impacted areas where residents are entering the ocean due to smoke and fire conditions.” They further added, “Individuals were transported by the Coast Guard to safe areas.”
The devastation in Lahaina led one inhabitant to tell CNN, “Lahaina has been devastated. People jumping in the ocean to escape the flames, being rescued by the Coast Guard. All boat owners are being asked to rescue people. It’s apocalyptic.”
Hawaii faced a breakdown in 911 and cellular services early Wednesday, with fires burning in three distinct areas: Lahaina, south of Lahaina in Kihei, and inland near Kula. Approximately 12,000 residents were left without power in West Maui, according to Hawaii News Now.
Tiare Lawrence, a Lahaina resident, expressed her despair to Hawaii News Now, saying, “It’s just so hard. I’m currently Upcountry and just knowing I can’t get a hold of any of my family members. I still don’t know where my little brother is. I don’t know where my stepdad is. Everyone I know in Lahaina, their homes have burned down.”
Wednesday saw first responders continuing to gauge the extent of the destruction. Acting Gov. Sylvia Luke and Maui Mayor Richard Bissen proclaimed an emergency, and the American Red Cross initiated shelters, as announced on the County of Maui’s Facebook page.
The catastrophic situation was further intensified by Hurricane Dora, a category 4 storm located 500 miles south of Hawaii. The National Weather Service attributed the damaging winds over Maui to this hurricane, though forecasts predicted a decrease in wind speeds on Wednesday and Thursday as the storm drifted away from the island.
Reflecting on the calamity, County spokesperson Mahina Martin termed Tuesday as “one of the more challenging days for our island,” referring to the widespread evacuations, as reported by CBS News.
In response to the disaster, the Hawaii National Guard was deployed across various parts of the island, as per USA Today.
The full impact of the devastation remains unknown as authorities continue to assess the situation.
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