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Deadly Maui Wildfires Claim 53 Lives; Evacuation Shelters Overflow

August 10, 2023 | By Kali Girl

A devastating wildfire, fueled by powerful winds, has wreaked havoc on the Hawaiian island of Maui, leading to a toll of 53 lives lost, according to Maui Mayor Richard Bissen Jr.

CBS News reports, while specifics surrounding the fatalities remain undisclosed, the mayor confirmed the grim count shortly before a press briefing.

Bissen expressed concern for several individuals currently unaccounted for. He speculated that some of these individuals might be motorists yet to seek refuge in shelters, as the wildfires prompted widespread evacuations.

Amidst the disaster, the local community has rallied together, with more than 2,100 individuals finding refuge in the five emergency shelters that have been set up across the island.

The catastrophe has also disrupted power supply to a number of hotels.

Acting Gov. Sylvia Luke told reporters that some shelters were “overrun” and tourists, who were still arriving on Maui Wednesday morning, were discouraged from going to the island.

According to Luke, “This is not a safe place to be. We have resources that are being taxed.”

The town of Lahaina, nestled on the northwestern tip of Maui and home to 12,000 residents, is grappling with an unprecedented wildfire emergency. Flames and smoke pushed panicked locals and visitors to seek refuge by jumping into in the ocean, with a dozen people rescued by the Coast Guard.

The inferno has prompted widespread evacuations and overwhelmed local hospitals with burn patients. Governor Josh Green, away on travel, is set to return to the state to assess the situation firsthand.

Maui County sent a warning through Twitter stating, “Do NOT go to Lahaina town.” According to Gov. Green, much of the town “has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced.”

Issuing a state of emergency, Luke told CNN that the hospital system on the island “was overburdened with burn patients, people suffering from inhalation.”

“The reality is that we need to fly people out of Maui to give them burn support,” Luke said.

“911 is down. Cell service is down. Phone service is down. And that’s been part of the problem,” she said.

Unlike their mainland counterparts, fires in Hawaii typically emerge in expansive arid areas on the island’s dry flanks, often smaller in scale. The National Weather Service raised alarms about perilous fire weather with strong winds and red flag warnings.

Fortunately, these harsh conditions are anticipated to subside as Wednesday progresses, extending into Thursday.

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