Maui Wildfires Kill at Least 55, Wipe Out Historic Town

An aerial view shows wildfire smoke in Lahaina, Hawaii, U.S., in this screen grab obtained from a social media video released on August 10, 2023. Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke via Facebook/via REUTERS

Warning Sirens Did Not Sound, Survivors Say

At least 55 people have been killed and hundreds more are missing after wildfires tore through the historic town of Lahaina on Maui, Hawaii. The blazes, which were fueled by dry conditions and strong winds, also destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.

Survivors of the fire say that they did not hear any warning sirens before the flames began to spread. Instead, they received alerts on their cellphones, televisions, and radios. However, many people say that they did not receive these alerts until it was too late to evacuate.

HERO Lahaina Hawaii Maui USA. 9th Aug 2023. A wildfire burns on the island of Maui near an intersection in Lahaina Hawaii Credit Alamy 2RGH2F3

Hawaii has one of the largest integrated outdoor public safety warning systems in the world, with about 400 sirens positioned across the island chain. However, it is unclear why the sirens did not sound in Lahaina.

Gov. Josh Green has warned that the death toll from the wildfires is likely to rise as search and rescue operations continue. He has also said that Lahaina residents will be allowed to return to their homes on Friday to check on their property.

“The recovery’s going to be extraordinarily complicated, but we do want people to get back to their homes and just do what they can to assess safely because it’s pretty dangerous,” Green told Hawaii News Now.

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Cadaver-sniffing dogs were brought in on Friday to assist the search for the remains of people killed by the inferno.

The wildfires are the deadliest natural disaster to hit Hawaii since a 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people. An even deadlier tsunami in 1946, which killed more than 150 people on the Big Island, prompted the development of the territory-wide emergency system that includes the sirens.

The cause of the wildfires is still under investigation. However, officials believe that they may have been sparked by downed power lines.

The fires have also caused widespread damage to the island’s tourism industry. Maui is a popular tourist destination, and the wildfires have forced the closure of several hotels and resorts.

President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster on Maui and promised to streamline requests for assistance to the island.

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