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Maui Wildfires Rip Through Lahaina, Kill at Least 36

Fast-moving wildfires have torn through the historic Hawaiian city of 12,000 and have damaged or destroyed approximately 270 structures. So far, more than 11,000 people have been flown off the island since the fires began earlier this week.

At least 36 people on Maui have been killed by fast-moving wildfires that have also ripped through homes and destroyed parts of a centuries-old town, leaving the island community devastated.

The latest fatality count marks a staggering increase from earlier reports of six people killed, with authorities warning the figure will likely climb as firefighting and rescue efforts continue Thursday. According to Maui County officials, all of the deaths have occurred in Lahaina, a city of about 12,000, where some 270 structures have been damaged or destroyed by the blazes.

Dozens more people have been injured and hundreds have been displaced by the fires, leaving hospitals overwhelmed and emergency shelters overflowing. As a result, Gov. Josh Green has urged travelers and tourists to leave as places like hotels and AirBnBs will be used to “house our people.” He told CNN officials are also working on a program that would connect displaced residents with locals who may be able to take them in.

So far, more than 11,000 people have been flown off Maui since the blazes began earlier this week, Hawaii Department of Transportation Director Ed Sniffen said. Another 1,500 are expected to fly out Thursday, he added.

At the heart of the devastation is Lahaina Town, one of Hawaii’s most historic cities and onetime capital of the former kingdom. The flames have consumed most of Front Street, a popular tourist spot lined with bars and restaurants, and reduced centuries-old buildings to rubble and ash.

Richard Olsten, a helicopter pilot with tour operator Air Maui, said he flew over the scene Wednesday before work to survey the damage.

“All the places that are tourist areas, that are Hawaiian history, are gone, and that can’t be replaced,” he said. “You can’t refurbish a building that’s just ashes now. It can’t be rebuilt — it’s gone forever.”

“It’s a huge impact and blow on the history of Hawaii and Maui and Lahaina,” Olsten said.

While what exactly sparked the infernos remains unclear, the flames have been fanned by Hurricane Dora, a storm that was moving across the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles south of the Hawaiian islands, according to the National Weather Service. The weather system, classified as a Category 4 hurricane, fueled 60 mph winds on Wednesday, knocking out power lines and damaging homes.

Winds are expected to decrease significantly as Hurricane Dora moves away from Hawaii. By Thursday night, they are forecast to be between 10 and 20 mph, NWS predicted.

As of Thursday morning, more than 11,000 customers on Maui were without power, according to, accounting for about 15 percent of the island’s customers.

“We are all hands on deck in supporting and responding to Maui communities affected by the outages, active wildfires, and sustained high wind damage,” said Shayna Decker, Hawaiian Electric spokesperson. “Our focus right now is the safety of our communities, customers, and workforce and prioritizing power restoration to areas that our crews can safely access.”

©2023 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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