A wildfire, intensified by the winds of Hurricane Dora, has caused widespread devastation on the island of Maui in Hawaii. The fire, which began on Wednesday, has resulted in the evacuation of thousands of residents, claimed at least 36 lives, and destroyed parts of the historic town of Lahaina.
The blaze, fed by the hurricane located roughly 500 miles to the south, has led to extensive damage. Late Wednesday, Maui County confirmed that the death toll had risen to 36 amidst the ongoing fire in Lahaina. Further information was not immediately available.
Initial reports suggested that 271 structures had been damaged or destroyed, with many people injured. The wildfire, exacerbated by the hurricane’s winds, has destroyed several structures in various areas, including Lahaina, leading to evacuations and school closures in several communities on Wednesday. A dozen people have been rescued from the smoke and flames.
The U.S. Coast Guard reported that 14 individuals, including two children, who had jumped into the water to escape the smoke and flames, were rescued. The fire has spread extensively in Lahaina, affecting Front Street, a popular tourist area. As firefighting crews continue to battle the blaze in various parts of the island, authorities have advised visitors to avoid the area.
FOX Weather predicts that the windy conditions will likely ease as the pressure gradient between the high-pressure ridge and Hurricane Dora weakens in the coming days. Aerial footage of Lahaina reveals the extent of the damage, with dozens of homes and businesses, including those on Front Street, reduced to rubble. The fire has left a trail of destruction, with burned-out cars littering the streets and historic buildings turned into smoking debris.
Power outages have affected about 14,500 customers in Maui as of early Wednesday, with cell service and phone lines down in some areas. Residents have resorted to social media to connect with friends and family amidst the communication blackout.
Experts attribute the deadly wildfire to high winds, low humidity, and dry vegetation, but also point to climate change as a factor increasing the likelihood of such extreme weather events.