HONDURAS — Several villages in Hawaii were forced to evacuate on Wednesday due to wildfires that were fanned by high winds and destroyed numerous buildings, including the historic Lahaina town. Rescue workers also plucked a dozen people who had fled the smoke and flames into the ocean.
According to a statement from the County of Maui, the U.S. Coast Guard reacted to places where people entered the ocean to flee the fire and smoke. A crew pulled 12 individuals from the water off Lahaina, according to a tweet from the Coast Guard.
The county tweeted that several Lahaina roads were closed along with the caution, “Do NOT go to Lahaina town.”
According to Mahina Martin, a spokeswoman for the County of Maui, there was widespread fire in Lahaina, including Front Street, a tourist-friendly portion of the town. Officials encouraged anyone who weren’t in an evacuation area to remain in place to avoid contributing to the traffic as people attempted to flee, she said.
As night set, winds exceeding 60 mph (97 kph) knocked out electricity, shook homes, and grounded firefighting helicopters, according to the National Weather Service, which indicated Hurricane Dora, which was passing safely 500 miles (805 kilometers) to the south of the island chain, was partially to blame. The weather service predicted that the hazardous fire conditions brought on by strong winds and low humidity will last into Wednesday afternoon.
On behalf of Governor Josh Green, who is away, Acting Governor Sylvia Luke declared an emergency and called on the Hawaii National Guard.
Martin added that no fatalities had been reported, and the lone injury was to a firefighter who was being treated for smoke inhalation at a hospital and was in stable condition. There is no estimate available for the number of evacuated residents or the number of structures affected by the flames, but Martin reported that four shelters are operational, with the largest accommodating more than 1,000 people.
Martin remarked that the situation was “so unprecedented,” noting that various districts were impacted. She claimed that experiencing an emergency at night is terrifying because it is difficult to determine the depth of the harm.
All hands are on deck right now, and we are looking forward to dawn, she Remarked
According to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a disaster designation to provide aid with a fire that endangered roughly 200 homes in and near Kohala Ranch, a rural neighborhood with more than 500 residents on the Big Island. The fire was out of control and had scorched more than 600 acres (243 hectares) when the request was made. Officials said that two further uncontrolled fires were raging on the Big Island and Maui on Wednesday while a large portion of Hawaii was still under a red flag warning.
On Maui, firefighters were putting out numerous fires that were centered in two places: the well-known tourist hotspot of West Maui and an inland, mountainous location. Residents were instructed to phone the police department in west Maui because there was no 911 service available.
The wind gusts prevented helicopters from dropping water on the fires from the air or measuring more precise fire sizes, and firefighters were working inland fires on roads that were blocked by falling trees and power lines, according to Martin.
According to poweroutage.us, about 14,500 people in Maui were without electricity early on Wednesday.
Given the numerous fires and multiple evacuations in the various district areas, Martin remarked, “It’s definitely one of the more difficult days for our island.”
Inland Maui experienced winds as high as 80 mph (129 kph), and the strong winds caused one fire that had been thought to be out earlier in the day on Tuesday to flare up hours later.
“The fire can be a mile or more away from your home, but in a minute or two, it could be at your house,” said Fire Assistant Chief Jeff Giesea.
According to Maui Mayor Richard Bissen, a fire that burned across an area of about 1.7 square miles (4.5 square kilometers) in the Kula neighborhood of Maui destroyed at least two residences. According to him, 40 residences held 80 people who had to be evacuated.
Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth explained why around 400 residences in four towns in the northern section of the island were evacuated: “We’re trying to protect homes in the community.” He claimed that as of Tuesday, one home’s roof had caught fire.
The flames in Hawaii are very different from many of those that are raging in the American West. They are often much smaller than flames on the mainland and tend to start in expansive grasslands on the drier edges of the islands.
Fires weren’t widespread in Hawaii and other tropical islands before people arrived, so the local ecosystems were able to develop without them.. This means that when flames start, significant environmental harm may result. For instance, fires destroy plant life. Heavy rains that come after a fire may wash loose soil into the water, smothering coral reefs there.