The worst U.S. fire of the last century has destroyed a gorgeous village on the Hawaiian island of Maui, killing at least 89 people, according to officials on Saturday. The most recent number was higher than the death toll from the 2018 Camp Fire in northern California, which left 85 people dead and completely destroyed the town of Paradies. The 1918 Cloquet Fire, which erupted in drought-stricken northern Minnesota and swept through many rural villages, destroyed thousands of houses and claimed hundreds of lives a century earlier.
There have been at least two further fires on Maui, in the rugged interior settlements of Upcountry and the Kihei region of south Maui, although no fatalities have been recorded to far. Authorities said that a fourth fire broke out Friday night in Kaanapali, a seaside village in West Maui north of Lahaina, but personnel were able to put it out.
No warning, no sirens on Maui
Many survivors said in interviews that they were not warned in advance—either by sirens or other means—and only became aware of their situation when they saw flames or heard explosions close by.
How could this happen from a raging wildfire? A wildfire is well known and monitored, how could it swallow the entire village and how could a wildfire not trigger warning sirens and not trigger media warning? This sounds more like a diversion and terrorist attack rather than wildfire.
According to Gov. Josh Green, at least 2,200 structures, almost all of which were houses, were damaged or destroyed on West Maui. Damage over the island was calculated to be close to $6 billion.
According to Green, the majority of the 544 structures impacted by the Upcountry fire were residences.
County officials stated on Facebook that as many as 4,500 people require refuge, citing statistics from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pacific Disaster Centre.
Officials urge anyone who had lost family members to undergo a DNA test at a family help centre.
According to Hawaii emergency management data, the town’s warning sirens did not ring prior to the arrival of the fire. Authorities sent notifications to mobile phones, TVs, and radio stations, but their reach may have been constrained by widespread power and cellphone disruptions.