August 12, 2023

Hawaii Wildfire: Catholic Church building untouched

The Hawaii Catholic Church

The death toll from wildfires that destroyed swathes of Hawaii this week has risen to 80. No fewer than 1,418 people were at emergency evacuation shelters. But a Catholic Church building sits untouched.

The Maria Lanakila Catholic Church was seemingly unscathed. It stands looming over the ashes of Waine’e Street, a small fire burning in front of it like some kind of perverse Eternal Flame.

The stone walls of the historic Hale Pa’ahao prison still stood. But the wooden building that was used to punish unruly sailors was no more — 170 years of history wiped out.

Blocks away, Front Street, where restaurants had jostled with clothing stores for a view of the ocean, was all but gone.

Boats that had been moored in the harbour days earlier were blackened, melted or sunk.

Among the ruins, the huge banyan tree still stood upright. It branches are now denuded of green and its sooty trunk transformed into an awkward skeleton.

The tree has dominated Lahaina for 150 years. It watched over an island that was an independent monarchy, then a US territory, and finally a full US state.

But the city it once guarded is now gone.

Resident mourns

When a resident, Anthony La Puente made it back to the place he had called home for the last 16 years, there was almost nothing left.

His house, like most in Lahaina, had been razed by the wildfire that swept through this slice of Hawaiian paradise.

“The only thing I can say is that it hurts. It takes a toll on you emotionally,” the 44-year old said.

“It sucks not being able to find the things you grew up with, or the things you remember.”

La Puente was one of dozens of people who were allowed back into what used to be Lahaina on Friday.

The 12,000-strong town, which has stood on the island of Maui for hundreds of years, was once the proud home of the Hawaiian royal family.

Thousands of tourists visit every year to soak up the atmosphere.They wander along the scenic harbor front, and to idle under a majestic banyan tree reputed to be the oldest in the United States. AFP

Vanguard News