OAN’s Noah Herring
12:54 PM – Thursday, August 10, 2023
The death toll from the wildfires on the Hawaiian Island of Maui worsened drastically overnight with at least 36 people dead and more than 270 structures damaged or destroyed, officials said on Wednesday.
The number of deaths is expected to rise as multiple fires are still burning on the island and search crews are scavenging the charred areas.
Evacuations continued on Thursday as buses have been provided to take people from the affected areas to shelters, the western part of the island, or Maui’s Kahului Airport.
Edwin Sniffen, Hawaii’s Department of Transportation Director, said on Wednesday night that 11,400 travelers left Maui earlier in the day with another 600 staying at the airport overnight. Around 1,600 passengers are expected to leave the island on Thursday.
Earlier today, President Biden approved a federal disaster declaration for Maui by allowing federal funding to be made available to help those affected.
The fires in the historic town of Lahaina were one of several on the island that engulfed entire communities as it was fueled by the wind from Hurricane Dora.
The wildfires took the island by surprise as it left behind charred cars and piles of rubble where historic buildings used to stand.
The flames from the fire reportedly forced locals to run to the ocean and jump in for safety. The Coast Guard also reported that 14 people were rescued from Lahaina’s harbor. Two of them were minors.
State Department of Education Superintendent Keith Hayashi said in a statement on Wednesday that a team is currently preparing for the possible loss of a century old elementary school in Lahaina.
“Unofficial aerial photos show the King Kamehameha III Elementary campus – on Front Street in Lahaina – sustained extensive fire and structural damage,” he said. “The Department is striving to maintain regular school schedules to provide a sense of normalcy but will keep most Maui schools closed for the remainder of this week.”
Wildfires were also burning on Hawaii’s Big Island, although there have been no reports of injuries or destroyed homes there, according to Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth.
The National Weather Service canceled its red flag wildfires warning and high winds advisory for Hawaii on Wednesday night.
Acting Gov. Sylvia Luke has recently urged travelers to stay away, as many communities have been completely wiped out.
“This is not a safe place to be,” she maintained.
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