Hawaii wildfires cause 'unprecedented disaster' as West Maui loses 911 service
Thousands of Hawaiians have lost power and emergency services as hurricane-fueled wildfires devastate the island of Maui.
At least six people have died from the wildfires, Maui officials said in a briefing on Wednesday. How many people were injured was not immediately known and the full extent of the destruction may not be clear for weeks or months, according to Lt Governor Sylvia Luke.
The Coast Guard rescued two children and a dozen adults on Tuesday after they ran into the ocean to escape the flames. At least 271 buildings or structures have been damaged so far.
‘We have suffered a terrible disaster in the form of a wildfire that has spread widely as a result of hurricane-force winds in the region and underlying drought conditions,’ Governor Josh Green said on Wednesday.
‘Maui and the Big Island both experienced significant fires,’ the governor said. ‘Much of Lahaina on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced.’
About 14,000 customers are out of power on Maui, according to online tracker Poweroutage.us.
Parts of West Maui, which includes the tourist hotspot of Lahaina, lost 911 services as cell towers on the island fell during the storm.
‘That’s been part of the problem,’ Luke told CNN. ‘The Maui County has not been able to communicate with residents on the west side.’
Local authorities have directed West Maui locals to call the police department directly for emergency services.
Governor Green announced he would return from scheduled personal travel early on Wednesday.
The governor’s office said Green was in ‘constant contact’ with Lieutenant Governor Luke, who was serving as Acting Governor during his planned time off.
‘This is an unprecedented disaster as an indirect result of Hurricane Dora passing just south of our islands,’ Lt Governor Luke said. ‘It is truly devastating and my heart goes out to the residents of Maui and all those impacted.’
The lieutenant governor’s office has discouraged all non-essential travel to Maui, and advised tourists that hotels may no longer be able to accommodate them.
They also asked visitors, especially to West Maui and the tourist hotspot of Lahaina, to leave immediately.
‘This proclamation is to discourage travel to the affected areas so we can prioritize our scarce resources for Maui residents who desperately need assistance,’ Lt Governor Luke said.
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