36 people have died in forest fires in Hawaii.  Follow the latest

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — A search through the ruins of a wildfire on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Thursday revealed a wasteland of burned homes and destroyed communities, as firefighters battled a stubborn blaze that has already claimed 36 lives. In recent years the U.S.

Fueled by dry summers and strong winds a A passing hurricane, The fire started Tuesday and took the island by surprise, running through dry growth and neighborhoods Historic Town of Lahaina, A tourist destination dating back to the 1700s, it is the largest community on the western side of the island.

Maui County said late Wednesday that at least 36 people had died, making it the deadliest wildfire since the U.S. wildfires. 2018 Camp Fire In California, it killed at least 85 people and laid waste to the city of Paradise. However, the Hawaiian toll could rise as rescuers reach parts of the island that cannot be reached due to fires or obstructions. Officials said earlier Wednesday that 271 structures were damaged or destroyed and dozens of people were injured.

“We are still in life-saving mode. Search and rescue is still the primary concern,” said Adam Weintraub, a spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

He said search and rescue teams still cannot access certain areas until fire lines are secure and he is confident they will be able to safely move to those areas.

“What we have is a natural disaster,” Weintraub said. “There may have been questions to be explored as to whether it was handled appropriately. But we’re still putting people at risk. We still have people without homes. We still have people who can’t find their loved ones.

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The flames put some people to work within minutes and sent others into the sea. A Lahaina man, Bosco Bay, He posted the video on Facebook Starting Tuesday night, sirens blared and the roaring air of sparks showed every building on the street was on fire. Bay, who said he was one of the last people to leave town, was evacuated to the island’s main airport and waited to be allowed to return home.

Lahaina residents Kamuela Kavakova and Iulia Yasso recounted their harrowing escape Tuesday afternoon under smoky skies. The couple and their 6-year-old son returned to their apartment after rushing to the supermarket for water and only had time to grab a change of clothes and run as the bushes around them caught fire.

“We didn’t do it right,” Kawakoa, 34, said at an evacuation shelter on Wednesday, still unsure if anything was left of their apartment.

A senior center across the street caught fire as the family fled. They called 911, but didn’t know if people got out. As they drove, downed power poles and others fleeing in cars slowed their progress. “It was very difficult to see my city burning to ashes and not being able to do anything,” Kawakoa said.

Tourists were advised to stay away as the fire raged, and about 11,000 people left Maui on Wednesday, with at least another 1,500 expected to leave on Thursday, state Transportation Director Ed Sniffen said. Authorities prepared to take in thousands of evacuees at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

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Wildfires in Hawaii burn buildings, force evacuations and close schools, including historic town of Lahaina (Aug. 9)

Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. He said the island was “tested like never before in our lifetime”.

“We grieve for each other in this unsettling time,” he said said in a recorded statement. “In the days ahead, we will be stronger as a ‘kaiulu’ or community, and we will rebuild with resilience and aloha.”

There were fires A strong wind blew Dora moves farther south from the storm. This is a recent one A series of disasters This summer is due to extreme weather all over the world. Experts say Climate change This increases the probability of such occurrences.

Wildfires are not uncommon in Hawaii, but weather over the past few weeks has fueled the devastating blaze, once ignited, creating a high-wind disaster, said Thomas Smith, associate professor of environmental geography at the London School of Economics. and political science.

“Vegetation in Maui’s lowlands has been particularly dry this year, with below-average spring precipitation and almost no rain this summer.” Smith said.

The Big Island is currently watching for flames, Mayor Mitch Roth said, though there have been no reports of injuries or homes destroyed.

As the wind eased slightly in Maui on Wednesday, pilots were able to see the full extent of the disaster. Aerial video from Lahaina showed dozens of homes and businesses demolished, including Front Street, where tourists once flocked to shop and dine. Smoldering piles of trash piled up near the waterfront, boats burned in the harbor, and gray smoke billowed over the leafless skeletons of charred trees.

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“It’s horrible. I’ve been flying here for 52 years and I’ve never seen anything close to that,” said Richard Olston, a helicopter pilot with a tour company. “We had tears in our eyes.”

Power outages in parts of Maui. Cellular service was also down, making it difficult for many to check in with friends and family members. Some posted the news on social media.

Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara of the Hawaii Department of State Conservation told reporters Wednesday night that officials were working to restore communications, distribute water and add law enforcement personnel. National Guard helicopters have dropped 150,000 gallons (568,000 liters) of water on the Maui fire, he said.

The Coast Guard said 14 people, including two children, were rescued after jumping into the water to escape the flames and smoke.

Maui County Mayor Bissen said Wednesday that authorities have not yet begun investigating the immediate cause of the fire.

Mauro Farinelli of Lahaina said the wind started blowing hard Tuesday and then somehow the fire spread up a hillside.

“It tore everything apart at an amazing speed,” he said, “it was like a blowtorch.”

The winds were so strong they blew his garage door off its hinges and trapped his car in the garage, Farinelli said. So a friend took him to an evacuation shelter with his wife Judith and dog Susie. He doesn’t know what happened to their house.

“We’re hoping for the best, but we’re pretty sure it’s gone,” he said.

President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Maui on Thursday. He ordered all available federal assets to help with the response, and said Hawaii National Guard helicopters had been mobilized to help suppress the fire and help with search and rescue efforts.

“Our prayers are with those who saw their homes, businesses and communities destroyed,” Biden said in a statement.

Gov. Josh Green cut a trip short and planned to return Wednesday evening. In his absence, Acting Governor Sylvia Luke issued an emergency declaration urging tourists to stay away.

Alan Dicker, who owns a poster gallery and three homes in Lahaina, lamented the loss of so much to the city and to himself personally.

“The middle two blocks are the economic center of this island and I don’t know what else there is,” he said. “All the significant things I owned were burned today.”

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Cinco Kelleher reported from Honolulu and Perry from Wellington, New Zealand. Associated Press writers Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and Beatrice Dubuis in New York contributed to this report.

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