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Source : Rawpixel
August 26, 2023
Author : Alex Bustillos
In recent days news had emerged that a number of resident in Maui were trapped within Maui's inferno, during the August 8th firestorm.
Maui residents faced the deadliest U.S. wildfire incident in over a century and the worst natural disaster in the history of Hawaii, burning thousands of acres.
The devastating wildfires destroyed a large swath of Lahaina, the Hawaiian coastal town, killing at least 115 but possibly more than 1,000. Hundreds of residents have been missing since the beginning of the bushfire, whose ferocity has even melted fire trucks and charred homes to ash. Officials have been searching over charred remains with cadaver dogs.
When writing this report, the Lahaina fire is about 90% contained. The wildfire in Maui began spreading on August 8. Since then, the Olinda fire in Central Maui burned nearly 1,081 acres, and the Kula fire burned about 202 acres of the historic town, and both of them are 85% contained.
The Pulehu-Kihei fire is 100% contained. It began on August 12 and was estimated to burn 3,200 acres, as reported by officials on August 15.
The disaster started much earlier than the fire began spreading. The area experienced a flash drought, which produced an abundance of kindling, and Hurricane Dora, which passed about 500 miles south of the Hawaiian island chain, delivered strong winds to Maui. Nearly 30 electric poles were knocked over by those winds in West Maui, and Hawaiian Electric could not shut down the grid, which is a routine practice in other fire-prone regions.
A downed powerline is shown on video taken by a Lahaina homeowner lighting dry grasses on fire, possibly indicating the beginning of the more significant fire.
It later started burning homes in its path. Maui County Emergency officials preferred not to use an extensive network of emergency sirens to warn Lahaina's residents to flee.
John Pelletier, the Maui Police Chief, said in the news conference that police officers drove up and down streets, knocking on every door and using loudspeakers to warn people to flee, but didn't say when and where those efforts were taken. "We did not close or forbid people from getting out of Lahaina." Pelletier added, "If there was a downed power line that was live, we wanted to make sure that you didn't go over it down to live power line."
The strong winds of Hurricane Dora boosted the small brush fire caused by a downed powerline, which catalyzed larger fires throughout Maui.
According to the University of Hawaii's Pacific Disaster Center, the Lahaina fire destroyed or damaged nearly 86% of the residential area, affecting at least 2200 buildings. The cost of rebuilding the area is estimated to be $5.52 billion.
Lahaina and upper Kula residents are instructed to use only bottled water or potable water, as the fire led to an unsafe water advisory in both areas. Most of the residents have no electricity, and the electric company is working to restore power for essential buildings like grocery stores and pharmacies and then to consider individual businesses and private properties.
The residents are also warned of hazardous materials present in these areas, including asbestos, ash, pesticides, and other materials. County officials urged residents to avoid all affected regions unless authorities completely restore them.
The officials are unable to estimate how many missing people are presumed dead. Search teams have been scouring the barnacles with cadaver dogs in search of human remains. The effort has become more complicated, and they can only find bones or parts of the victims among piles of ash due to the intense fire heat. The authorities are urging their family members to provide DNA to identify victims.