Authorities report that 36 people have died as swift-moving wildfires ravage the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Strong winds from a far-off hurricane fueled the fires in the city of Lahaina, the island’s primary tourist attraction, resulting in the fatalities.
The conflagration is one of numerous on-going fires that have completely destroyed entire neighborhoods.
A state of emergency has been issued, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes.
There is a significant search and rescue effort underway, but some people are still missing.
“We barely made it out in time,” Kamuela Kawaakoa, who fled to an evacuation shelter on Tuesday with his partner and six-year-old son, told the Associated Press.”It was so hard to sit there and just watch my town burn to ashes and not be able to do anything,” he said. “I was helpless.”
On Maui, five evacuation shelters have opened, and officials have already said that they are “overrun” with people. Tourists have been told to avoid the island, which is a well-liked vacation spot.
“This is not a safe place to be,” Hawaii Lt Governor Sylvia Luke told reporters. “We have resources that are being taxed.”
Helicopters are pouring water on the fires from above as firefighters continue to battle active fires.
With only one main road passable, the western portion of the island, which is the second-largest in the Hawaiian chain, was nearly completely cut off.
“As the firefighting efforts continue, 36 total fatalities have been discovered today amid the active Lahaina fire,” the Maui county government said in a statement late on Wednesday.