(AP) The search of the wildfire wreckage on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Aug. 10 revealed a wasteland of burned-out homes and obliterated communities as firefighters battled the stubborn blaze that has already claimed 36 lives, making it the deadliest in the U.S. in five years.
Fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, the fire started Aug. 8 and took the island by surprise, racing through parched growth and neighborhoods in the historic town of Lahaina, a tourist destination that dates to the 1700s and is the biggest community on the island’s west side.
Maui County said late Aug. 9 that at least 36 people had died; the Hawaii toll could rise, though, as rescuers reach parts of the island that had been unreachable due to ongoing fires or obstructions. Officials said earlier Aug. 9 that 271 structures had been damaged or destroyed and that dozens of people had been injured, including some critically.
“We are still in life preservation mode. Search and rescue is still a primary concern,” said Adam Weintraub, a spokesperson for Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. “What we have here is a natural disaster. There may have been questions that need to be examined about whether it was handled in the right way. But we still got people in danger. We still have people who don’t have homes. We still have people who can’t find their loved ones.”
The flames left some people with mere minutes to act and led some to flee into the ocean. Communications have been spotty on the island, with 911, landline and cellular service failing at times.
Gov. Josh Green cut short a trip and planned to return Aug. 9. In his absence, acting Gov. Sylvia Luke issued an emergency proclamation and urged tourists to stay away. President Joe Biden also declared a major disaster on Maui.
How to Help Maui Fire Victims
JACL Honolulu is mobilizing quickly to aid fire victims in Maui. To also help contribute immediately, donations can be made to the following:
The Maui Strong Fund was created by the Hawaii Community Foundation to provide community resilience with resources for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. The fund is currently being used to support communities affected by the wildfires on Maui.
To donate, visit https://www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/maui-strong.
In addition, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement is matching a $1 million goal in its fundraiser Kako‘o Maui with additional support from Kamehameha Schools, Alaska Airlines and the King Charles Lunalilo Trust, among other organizations. Every dollar donated will be matched up to $1 million.
To donate, visit https://www.memberplanet.com/campaign/cnhamembers/kakoomaui.