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Hawaii Fire: Death toll rises to 55 with 1,000 missing and a thousand structures damaged or destroyed

As of Wednesday evening, at least 36 had died from the fire, making it the deadliest U.S. fire since 2018, when at least 85 people were killed in a fire in California

Hawaii wildfire
Hawaii wildfire | EFE

August 10, 2023 6:44pm

Updated: August 11, 2023 9:01am

At least 55 people have died and a thousand have gone missing on the Hawaiian island of Maui as the result of a raging wildfire that continues to quickly spread, as of Thursday afternoon. 

The fire began on Tuesday, fueled by dry summer and strong winds from passing Hurricane Dora. The wildfire quickly grew out of proportion and spread to the tourist city of Lahaina, a historic town that was built in the 1700s. 

As of Friday morning, at least 55 had died from the fire, making it the deadliest U.S. fire since 2018, when at least 85 people were killed in a fire in California. 

Officials believe the death toll in Hawaii could rise as multiple fires on the island continue to burn and many parts of the island are unreachable due to the fire or obstruction from debris. Several dozens more have sustained injuries from the fire. 

“We are still in life preservation mode. Search and rescue is still a primary concern,” Adam Weintraub, a spokesperson for Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said on Thursday.

Weintraub added that search and rescue teams will not be able to access parts of the island until the fire lines are secure. 

“What we have here is a natural disaster,” Weintraub said. “There may have been questions that need to be examined about whether it was handled in the right way. But we still got people in danger. We still have people who don’t have homes. We still have people who can’t find their loved ones.”

According to officials, an estimated 1,000 structures on the island have been destroyed or damaged. 

Thousands of tourists and residents have been flying out of Maui, with at least 11,000 leaving on Wednesday, according to state transportation director Ed Sniffen.

Another 1,500 were expected to leave the island on Thursday. The Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu was prepared as an intake center to accommodate the thousands of displaced residents. 

“We are grieving with each other during this inconsolable time,” said Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. said in a recorded statement. “In the days ahead, we will be stronger as a ‘kaiaulu,’ or community, as we rebuild with resilience and aloha.”

President Biden on Thursday approved a federal disaster proclamation for Maui, making federal funding available to those affected by the fires.