A chilling video shows desperate Maui residents fleeing into the treacherous ocean to escape wildfires that have ravaged the area and killed at least 55 people this week.
In the Clip shared on TikTok by the @chefjoshuamarten accountSeveral groups — including families with what appear to be young children — can be seen scaling the rocks into the rough surf off Lahaina as ash and smoke rain down and the flames draw closer.
Many of the panicked refugees are carrying backpacks, and some are clinging to what appear to be wooden planks and other objects to stay afloat.
The harrowing footage – viewed over 2 million times in just 10 hours – is among the latest footage of the devastating blaze that killed at least 55 people and decimated a historic city by early Friday.
“We have seen devastation, destruction and untold losses,” said Maui Mayor Richard Bissen told the TODAY Show on Friday morningwhile rescue workers continued to comb the ruins for possible survivors.
“I find [the number of the dead] could go up,” he admitted, noting that the current death toll only affects those who are outside buildings.
Authorities are waiting for FEMA to continue searching inside burned-out buildings, he said.
Almost 11,000 people are now also without electricity, water and communication services.
When asked about recent claims that local residents weren’t warned with warning sirens before the flames got closer, Blissen declined to comment.
“I think that was an impossible situation,” he said.
“The wind that hit us [wester] side of the island… in some areas gusts were up to 80mph… so it all happened so fast.”
Some homes were evacuated because of a minor fire earlier in the week, he claimed.
Earlier this week, Cole Millington from Lahaina said CNN that he didn’t receive a warning about the fire until he saw a “huge plume of black smoke” on his street.
“Within 15 minutes of talking about it and seeing the smoke, we were running in our cars, everything we could grab – bags to take home – mostly nothing,” he added.
“I got my passport, my dog and my truck and we walked out of the driveway.”
Thomas Leonard, a 70-year-old retired postman, said he didn’t realize the danger until he smelled smoke.
He attempted to flee in his jeep before being forced to take cover behind a seawall while ash and cinders swept over him, he recalled.
Other desperate survivors told how they climbed over corpses and made their way through a maze of burning buildings as paradise by the sea sank into “hell”.
“I saw some people just running, I heard screams from hell… explosions. “It felt like we were in hell, it really was,” said a man who asked not to be named KHON2. “It was just indescribable.”
“We still have bodies floating on the seawall,” another Lahaina A resident told Hawaii News Now. “They’ve been sitting there since last night.”
On Thursday, the Coast Guard said it eventually helped rescue and relocate more than 50 people who had been clinging to jetties in the sea to escape the fire.
Boat captain Christina Lovitt told CNN she saw “burning waves” as boats caught fire and even exploded in the marinas.
Lovitt, Lashawna Garnier and Lovitt’s wife Emma Nelson were able to rescue two children aged 5 and 6 from the water.
“To see this beautiful thing that I’ve worked on all my life just disappear – that was just the most tragic thing,” Lovitt said of her boat, which she also lost in the flames.
“But we were able to save these children.”
But even the survivors must now deal with the loss of their homes, businesses and more.
“I don’t own anything. I have the clothes on my back and my car and that’s it,” said Phena Davis KITV 4.
“There is no more Lahaina. There is no Lahaina port, no Mala Wharf. Every restaurant burned down.”
The wildfires – about 80% contained as of Thursday night – are the state’s deadliest natural disaster since 1960, when a tsunami killed 61 people.
The blaze is also the deadliest wildfire in the United States since California’s Paradise fire in 2018, which killed at least 85 people.
With post wires