WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — At least 36 people have died in Hawaii’s Lahaina fire, Maui County reports.
Wildfires, whipped by strong winds from Hurricane Dora passing far to the south, took the island of Maui by surprise, leaving behind burned-out cars on once-busy streets and smoking piles of rubble where historic buildings had stood. Flames roared throughout the night, forcing adults and children to dive into the ocean for safety.
Officials said earlier that 271 structures were damaged or destroyed and dozens of people injured.
The fires left a swath of devastation for blocks in the historic town of Lahaina. Aerial video from the town showed dozens of homes and businesses razed, including on Front Street, where tourists once gathered to shop and dine.
President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday evening that he has ordered “all available Federal assets” to help combat wildfires that have devastated parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui, killing at least six people.
The president said the Coast Guard and Navy are supporting response and rescue efforts, while the Marines are providing Black Hawk helicopters to fight the fires. The Hawaii National Guard has mobilized Chinook helicopters to help with fire suppression and search and rescue operations.
Biden said the Transportation Department is working with commercial airlines to evacuate tourists from the island, while the Interior and Agriculture departments “stand ready to support post-fire recovery efforts.”
In his statement, the president offered “condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones” and expressed gratitude toward “the brave firefighters and first responders who continue to run toward danger.”
Firefighting crews were continuing to battle fires in Lahaina, Pulehu and Upcountry, the County of Maui said on Facebook Wednesday afternoon. More than 2,100 people were housed overnight in four emergency shelters, the county said. Another 2,000 travelers were sheltering at the Kahului Airport.