Sunday, 19 May 2024

Hawaii hit by wildfires AND hurricane as people leap into sea to escape flames

People are leaping into the sea in a desperate attempt to flee devastating wildfires in Hawaii amid apocalyptic weather conditions.

Hurricane Dora is tearing through the US island state, with the scale of damage severely worsened by raging infernos fuelled by high speed winds.

Explosions have been triggered by the fires, homes and buildings are being destroyed and power lines are down in Maui County, with emergency alerts and evacuation orders in place.

Footage and pictures show the apocalyptic scenes of flames roaring in the extreme 60mph wind and thick black smoke billowing into the sky.

Families can be seen attempting to escape in their cars on the Honoapiilani Highway as smoke and debris swirls around the sky above them in videos reminiscent of a disaster movie.

Maui County Government told local news outlets it understands the situation is ‘very chaotic’ and emergency services are working hard to help those affected.

Fire crews are continuing to battle multiple brush and building fires across West Maui, including in Lahaina, while emergency evacuation centres have been opened by the American Red Cross.

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US reporter John Stempin said on Twitter: ‘At least 7 wildfires burn on 3 of the Hawaiian Islands now. Portions of Maui and the Big Island are under evacuation orders.

‘Eyewitness report people trapped at Lahaina are fleeing into the ocean. No reports of casualties so far. Nat’l Guard activated.’

The US Coast Guard Hawaii Pacific team said it has recovered people from the sea.

It said on Twitter: ‘A USCG 45-foot Response Boat Medium crew from Station Maui has successfully rescued 12 individuals from the waters off Lahaina.


‘The USCG continues the joint response with federal and state partners while the USCG Cutter Kimball is en route to Maui to enhance efforts.’

A government spokesperson said: ‘The Coast Guard has been responding to impacted areas where residents are entering the ocean due to smoke and fire conditions.

‘Individuals were transported by the Coast Guard to safe areas.’

One Twitter user said Lahaina was ‘on fire’, writing: ‘People jumping in the water. This is insane. Barely any communication.’

Emergency alert

As the situation evolves, the local government in Maui County is issuing several alerts and updates on its website around evacuations, road closures, weather and fire warnings.

A Red Flag Warning is currently in place and means ‘critical fire weather conditions’ are either occurring now or will shortly.

It says: ‘A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behaviour.’

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has also approved the State of Hawaii’s request for a disaster declaration to provide assistance with the Kohala Ranch wildfire on the Big Island.

According to the office of state governor, Josh Green, the fire started early on Tuesday and threated around 200 homes, electricity lines and mobile phone tower.

More than 600 acres of land has been destroyed on the Big Island.

A spokesperson for Mr Green’s office said: ‘Firefighters have been hampered by the winds, which made it impossible to provide aircraft support for their efforts to contain the flames.’

Maui evacuation orders

The Maui County government said today: ‘Multiple evacuation orders are in place. Structure damages have occurred.

‘The American Red Cross is staffing emergency shelters at Kihei Community Center, Lahaina Civic Center and in Pukalani at Hannibal Tavares Community Center.

‘We ask that people stay safe look out for each other.

‘One thing we want to make sure is that if you’re ordered to evacuate to evacuate, road closures are fast moving depending on the necessity of it as our fire crews and our police officers deem necessary in both locations of Upcountry and West Maui.’

At the weekend, three people were killed after two helicopters fighting a wildfire in California crashed.

Wildfires have been breaking out across the world by their dozens in recent weeks, including in Portugal where hundreds of firefighters faced a wall of flames as temperatures soared to 46C.

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