As catastrophic wildfires spread across the Hawaiian island of Maui, 911 and cellphone services are down, some 14,000 homes and businesses are without power, and hospitals are overflowing with victims of burns and smoke inhalations. Maui residents and tourists are left stranded on the island, which is home to about 117,000 people. Some are attempting to escape the fire and smoke by jumping into the sea – prompting 12 Coast Guard rescue missions reported by CNN. Downtown of Lahaina, a small town of 13,000 people, was mostly destroyed.
Evacuation orders are in place and approximately 1,800 travelers are being accommodated at Kahului Airport. At least six people have died. More Hawaii National Guardsmen are expected to join Maui officials late Wednesday to help manage the crisis. Hawaii Gov. Sylvia Luke (Gov. Josh Green is currently out of state) declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, calling the crisis “unprecedented” and describing the difficulty of coordinating evacuations.
“What we’re trying to do is deploy individuals to areas with satellite phone service. We may have only had contact with one hotel because that hotel’s officials have satellite phones,” Luke told CNN. “The reality is that we have to fly people out of Maui to assist with burns because Maui Hospital cannot provide comprehensive burn treatment.”
Illustrative, harrowing videos of the wildfires, posted by those who managed to pick up intermittent cell phone signals, have surfaced on social media sites – some showing victims lying motionless on the road, being captured by passengers of vehicles swept through what appeared to be navigate impassable smoke and flames, others show people Escape to treacherous waters full of burning debris.
Erratic wind speeds of up to 60 mph and high-pressure conditions brought on by Dora — a powerful Category 4 hurricane about 800 miles to the southwest — along with reduced humidity on the island, have exacerbated wildfire conditions. Dora is expected to move west far enough by Thursday for the winds to ease and the risk of wildfires to be reduced.
about these wildfires, climate change and what can be done