Evacuations in Maui as Death Toll Rises to 67

Daily Insider News

Current evacuations are taking place on Maui Island in Hawaii, as flames inch closer to Kaanapali town. This directive was initiated shortly after allowing Lahaina residents nearby to briefly return and assess the damage caused by the devastating fire that engulfed the historic town. The fires have tragically claimed 67 lives so far, constituting the most fatal natural disaster in the state’s history. A significant number of individuals remain unaccounted for, and the count of casualties might still increase. The Maui Police Department emphasized community and first responder safety in their evacuation efforts, particularly in Kaanapali. Lahaina was reopened for residents with proof of residency after a week, revealing widespread destruction that left those returning shocked. Long queues of residents formed to access the town, though they were forewarned about the unprecedented levels of destruction. Evacuees, who had fled with minimal possessions, expressed concern about proving their residency status.

A nightly curfew will be enforced from 22:00 to 06:00 local time, and access to certain severely affected sections of the town is limited to search and rescue personnel.

The regions of West Maui, where Lahaina and Kaanapali are situated, continue to experience power and water shortages. Search teams are still on-site, diligently seeking out victims of the wildfire.

This includes efforts in the water. The Coast Guard confirmed the successful rescue of 17 individuals from the waters near the town’s harbor. All of them are reported to be in stable condition.

Nonetheless, Gabe Lucy, the proprietor of a tour operator on Maui, shared distressing accounts with the Daily Insider. According to him, individuals were compelled to leap into the water due to the rapid encroachment of the fire. Mr. Lucy stated that some individuals, including children as young as four years old, were placed onto surfboards and rescued. Additionally, there are reports of bodies being discovered on the rocks.

Along the Honoapiilani Highway, a crucial route into Lahaina, cars were tightly packed in a standstill, with fatigued and anxious families sharing the road with trucks transporting water and fuel.

A family recounted to the Daily Insider that they endured the worst of the fire in Lahaina and ventured out only on Thursday to procure essential supplies. Their house still stood, but they found themselves dwelling in darkness.

They expressed a belief that the confirmed death count, though already distressingly high, would escalate further. “On our street alone, it’s 50 people,” one family member conveyed.

Governor Josh Green cautioned Hawaiians on Friday about the somber sights they would encounter in Lahaina. He emphasized, “Lahaina is a devastated zone. They will see destruction like they’ve not ever seen in their lives.” The governor, who visited the town on Thursday, urged extreme caution and safety.

Green projected that it would require many years to mend the destruction caused by the wildfires on Maui Island. Lahaina, a coastal town with a rich history attracting around two million tourists annually, suffered the loss of over 1,000 structures due to the blazes. On Friday, Maui County authorities verified an additional 12 deaths in Lahaina, further cementing it as Hawaii’s most deadly natural disaster, surpassing the toll of a 1960 tsunami that claimed 61 lives.

Prompted by mounting queries about the timing of official warnings to residents, Hawaii’s attorney general declared a “comprehensive review” into the authorities’ response to the wildfires.

Despite some residents being permitted to return to Lahaina on Friday, evacuees at the War Memorial Stadium shelter, located about 20 miles (32km) away from the historic town, expressed no eagerness to return. Most of them witnessed their homes igniting in flames as they narrowly escaped, and they hold little hope that anything remains for them to return to.

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