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 five years the U.S.

Fueled by dry summers and strong winds 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 Wednesday that 271 structures were damaged or destroyed, and dozens of people were injured, some in critical condition.

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

As long as fire lines are secure, search and rescue teams may still have access to some areas and are confident they can safely move to those areas, he said.

“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 wind-blown sparks showed every building on the street ablaze. Bey, who said he was one of the last 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,” said Kawakowa, 34, still unsure if anything was left of their apartment.

As the family ran, they found the Hale Maholu Senior Living Facility across the street on fire and called 911.

Communications on the island are patchy, with 911, landline and cellular service down at times.

Chelsey Wierra’s grandmother, Louise Abihai, lived in Hale Maholu and the family did not know if she had come out. “She doesn’t have a phone. She was 97 years old,” Vierra said Thursday. “She can walk. She’s strong.”

Relatives keep track of shelter lists and call the hospital. “We need to find our loved one, but there is no connection here,” said Vierra, who fled the flames. “We don’t know who to ask where she went.”

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

In coastal Kihei, southeast of Lahaina, a vast landscape glowed red with embers Wednesday night as flames continued to chew through trees and buildings. A brisk wind blew sparks over the black and orange patchwork of charred earth and the still-exploding hot spots.

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 flames, Mayor Mitch Roth said, although 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 it rescued 14 people who jumped into the water to escape the flames and smoke.

Maui County Mayor Bissen said Wednesday that officials 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.

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.

President Joe Biden declared a major disaster on Maui. While traveling in Utah on Thursday, Biden pledged that the federal response is “going to get help right away for anyone who has lost a loved one or whose home has been damaged or destroyed.”

Biden promised to streamline requests for aid and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was “increasing emergency personnel” on the island. “Our prayers are with the people of Hawaii. But not just our prayers. They will get every asset we have,” he said.

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Cinco Kelleher reported from Honolulu and Perry from Wellington, New Zealand. Associated Press writers Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Beatrice Dupuis in New York and Chris Megarion in Salt Lake City, Utah contributed to this report.

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