February 23, 2024

Unleashing Hell: Hawaii Suffers as Death Toll Rises to 36 in Maui Wildfires

4 min read
Maui Wildfire

Wildfires, acting like unleashed demons, have caused havoc in Hawaii’s Maui island, leaving a death toll of at least 36 people according to the Maui County. This is one of the horrific incidents of wildfires, accelerated by the winds of a distant hurricane, ripping through the heart of the Paradise of the Pacific.

Late on Wednesday, the resort city Lahaina on Maui island was transformed into a hellish landscape. A significant part of the western side of the island was nearly severed, with one highway left open, triggering a mass evacuation. A heart-wrenching narrative of destruction was reported for Lahaina, its harbor, and nearby areas, as multiple neighborhoods turned to ashes.

The situation escalated to such an extreme level that some residents, in a desperate attempt to evade the smoke and flames, plunged into the ocean.

Mason Jarvi, a Lahaina resident, expressed his horror, “We just had the worst disaster I’ve ever seen. All of Lahaina is burnt to a crisp. It’s like an apocalypse.” Jarvi managed to escape the city and provided Reuters with photos displaying the grey devastation along the Lahaina waterfront.

Lahaina Destruction

He revealed the blisters he earned while riding through the flames on his electric bike to rescue his dog.

The wildfires were fanned further by the winds of Hurricane Dora, located hundreds of miles to the southwest. The National Weather Service, however, canceled the “Red Flag Warning” and “High Wind Advisory” for all Hawaiian islands.

Satellite Image of Wildfires

Despite this, Maui County officials reported that firefighting efforts were still underway.

With the assessment of the damage still in progress, Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke expressed, “It will be a long road to recovery.” Aerial footages presented columns of smoke rising from Lahaina, the major tourist hotspot on Maui, where numerous large hotels are located.

Firefighters struggled with three significant fires, leading to the closure of western Maui for everyone except emergency workers and evacuees.

A staggering number of 271 structures were reported damaged or destroyed, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. This data was based on official reports from flyovers conducted by the U.S. Civil Air Patrol and the Maui Fire Department. The fires also extended their wrath to parts of the Big Island of Hawaii, resulting in thousands of acres being burnt.

Evacuation

The Hawaii Department of Transportation reported the evacuation of over 11,000 travelers from Maui. Despite the closure of at least 16 roads, the Maui airport remained fully operational. Airlines reduced fares and offered waivers to facilitate the evacuation of people from the island.

Panic-stricken evacuees posted images on social media showing ominous clouds of smoke looming over the beaches and palm trees that once epitomized serenity and beauty.

Dustin Johnson, a charter boat company employee, shared his terrifying experience: “I was the last one off the dock when the firestorm came through the banyan trees and took everything with it. And I just ran out and helped everyone I could along the way.”

Evacuation efforts were impeded by power outages and disruption to cell phone service, making communication with the west side of Maui possible only via satellite.

Climate Change and Wildfires

This catastrophe in Hawaii triggers memories of similar devastations across the globe during the summer. Wildfires, triggered by record-setting heat, led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and other parts of Europe, and western Canada also experienced unusually severe fires.

Scientists argue that human-driven climate change, fueled by fossil fuel use, is escalating the frequency and intensity of such extreme weather events. For years, they have warned that governments must cut down emissions to prevent a climate catastrophe.

Federal Aid

President Joe Biden, in a message of condolence from the White House, praised the firefighters and ordered the mobilization of “all available Federal assets on the Islands to help with the response.”

The National Guard, U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard were activated, and the U.S. Department of Transportation assisted in evacuation efforts. The cause of the wildfire in Maui is yet to be determined; however, the National Weather Service suggested that a combination of dry vegetation, strong winds, and low humidity fueled the fires.

The fight against the wildfires continues, and the recovery process hasn’t begun. This disaster serves as a grim reminder of the destructive power of wildfires and the vulnerability of even the most developed societies in the face of such natural disasters.

The incident also brings to the forefront the urgent need for comprehensive and practical measures at both local and global levels to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

It’s clear that the fight against wildfires is not just about combating raging flames, but also about addressing the larger issue of climate change, which is the silent fuel for these deadly fires.

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