August 11, 2023

Hawaii wildfire death toll hits 55

Hawaii wildfire death toll hits 55

A horrific wildfire in Lahaina town of Hawaii, the United States has killed no fewer than 55 people on Thursday, making him it one of the deadliest in the state’s history. 

Brushfires on the west coast of Hawaii’s Maui island — fuelled by high winds from a nearby hurricane — broke out Tuesday and rapidly engulfed the seaside town of Lahaina, Reuters reported.

The flames moved swiftly and several people were caught off-guard, trapped in the streets or jumping into the ocean in a desperate bid to escape.

A Canadian tourist, Brandon Wilson, who had travelled to Hawaii with his wife to celebrate their 25th anniversary, but was at the airport trying to get them a flight out, said it looked when the town was bombed.

“It really looks like somebody came along and just bombed the whole town. It’s completely devastated,” Wilson said.

“It was really hard to see,” he said, teary-eyed. “You feel so bad for people. They lost their homes, their lives, their livelihoods.”

The fires follow other extreme weather events in North America this summer, with record-breaking wildfires still burning across Canada and a major heat wave baking the US southwest.

Europe and parts of Asia have also endured soaring temperatures, with major fires and floods wreaking havoc.

“What we’ve seen today has been catastrophic… likely the largest natural disaster in Hawaii state history,” Governor Josh Green said.

“In 1960 we had 61 fatalities when a large wave came through Big Island,” he said earlier in the day, referring to a tragedy that struck a year after Hawaii became the 50th US state.

“This time, it’s very likely that our death totals will significantly exceed that.”

Maui County officials said just after 9:00 pm Thursday (0700 GMT Friday) that fatalities stood at 55, and firefighters were still battling the blaze in the town that served as the Hawaiian kingdom’s capital in the early 19th century