Photos show widespread devastation after Maui wildfires
The exact cause of the blaze is still unknown, but a mix of land and atmospheric conditions created “fire weather.” “Fire weather” is characterized as strong winds, low relative humidity and thunderstorms, which create an environment where a fire can ignite and spread rapidly, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Officials warned that the death toll is expected to rise. Multiple fires are still burning, and teams have spread out to search charred areas, officials said. The number of people still missing is unknown, said Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier.
“What we saw is likely the largest natural disaster in Hawaii state history,” Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Some Maui residents say they received no official warnings as the flames spread.
Police have advised that people stay away from Lahaina “due to biohazard and safety concerns.”
“Things are falling every minute around us,” said Maui County Fire Chief Bradford Ventura. “There have been people hurt by falling telephone poles and such.”
Some residents were being allowed to return to check on their property starting Friday afternoon, but a curfew will be in effect between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in the disaster area, officials said.
“Until you see the devastation, it’s difficult to describe,” said Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen. “But there’s lots of people that will need a lot of help.”
The fires began burning early on Tuesday, Aug. 8, putting 35,000 lives at risk, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said in a statement. Four wildfires began spreading rapidly after winds from Hurricane Dora, out in the Pacific, whipped the island.
The fire caught many residents of Maui off guard, making it difficult to plan for an organized evacuation. Dustin Kaleiopu fled Lahaina with his grandfather. He told CBS News they had to go with only the clothes they were wearing.
“The smoke was starting to come through our windows. By the time we got in our car, our neighbor’s yard was on fire. There were strangers in our yard with their water hoses trying to put fires out,” Kaleiopu said.
As evacuees wait to return to their homes, Pelletier, the police chief, told reporters it could be weeks before neighborhoods are reopened.
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