Thursday, 18 Jul 2024

Harrowing moment raging Maui wildfires force residents to jump into sea as '1000C blaze wiped out evacuation sirens' | The Sun

FOOTAGE shared online shows the harrowing moment Maui residents were forced to jump into the Pacific Ocean to save themselves from the raging wildfires.

According to Maui County, the death toll has risen to at least 80 as they investigate the effectiveness of warning systems and why Lahaina burned so quickly.

An update from Maui County on Saturday evening stated: "Firefighters continue working to extinguish flare-ups and contain fires in Lahaina, Pulehu/Kihei, and Upcountry Maui.

"The number of fatalities is at 80."

It added that as of Friday, 1,418 people were gathered at emergency evacuation shelters.

The footage shared online shows a number of people jumping into the ocean as smoke and hot embers chase them off land.

A number of people can be seen gathered around a piece of floating debris in the grey water as smoke continues to fill the air.

One couple who presumably just entered the water can be seen holding hands trying to move further into the ocean and away from the fires.

According to Hawaii Governor Josh Green, recovery efforts have been underway since Friday as around 1,000 people are unaccounted for in what is now the deadliest disaster in the state's history.

As search teams await back up including crews with cadaver dogs, there have only been searches conducted outside of buildings.

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Officials have warned that the death toll will likely rise once again when interior searches of around 1,000 torched buildings take place.

U.S Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii told MSNBC: "Nobody has entered any of these structures that have burned down and that's where we unfortunately anticipate that the death toll will rise significantly."

As the disaster is being reviewed by emergency crews and officials, it is being questioned how the fire spread through the historic town of Lahaina so quickly and why a number of public warning systems failed.

The island has warning sirens to warn the public of incoming natural disasters and other serious threats, but it is thought they did not sound during the fires.

"I authorized a comprehensive review this morning to make sure that we know exactly what happened and when," Hawaii Governor Josh Green told CNN.

Authorities say that alerts were issued but according to a report from Associated Press, the Hawaii Emergency Management records give "no indication that warning sirens sounded before people ran for their lives."

Resident Lynn Robinson who lost her home told the news outlet: "There was no warning. There was absolutely none.

"Nobody came around. We didn't see a fire truck or anybody."

The Hawaii Governor added: "Normally, we would phone call one another, and through what’s often called the ‘coconut wireless,’ where everyone speaks to everyone else in their community, we would know right away that there was danger.

"That communication was cut off by the destruction of essentially 1000 degree heat that was coming down the mountain."

Officials have not yet given a detailed description of if residents were given notification of the impending disaster by phone, text message, or email.

However, the raging fires gravely impacted telecommunications with a number of services going down along with power cuts.

"We will do all that we can to find out how to protect our people more going forward," Green said.

Meanwhile, in a press conference on Thursday, Maui County Fire Chief Bradford Ventura said that the speed of the blaze meant it was "nearly impossible" to communicate with items to provide real-time evacuation orders.

Speaking of residents in the neighborhood where the fire first hit "were basically self-evacuating with fairly little notice."

County Mayor Richard Bissen told NBC on Friday: "I think this was an impossible situation" as he admitted not knowing if the sirens went off.

A former urban planning professor from the University of Hawaii called it a "nightmare scenario."

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Andrew Rumback said: "A fast-moving fire in a densely populated place with difficult communications and not a lot of good options in terms of evacuations."

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