May 24, 2024

At least 55 people have died following devastating wildfires in Hawaii – with the state’s governor describing it as a “heartbreaking day”.

Speaking at a news conference, Josh Green said this was “likely the largest natural disaster” in the state’s history.

He warned that the number of fatalities will rise further, and will probably surpass the 61 lives lost after a tsunami in 1960.

“What we’ve seen today has been catastrophic, but we tell you there’s going to be a team effort to bring our state back,” Mr Green told reporters.

He added that many hundreds of homes have been destroyed – and thousands of people are in need of temporary accommodation.

Maui mayor Richard Bissen addressed those whose homes have not been damaged by the fires but who have been evacuated.

“I know the question on your mind is: when can I get back to my home?” he said – urging people to wait until “we have recovered those that have perished”.

“Please allow us to complete this process before we allow people back into their homes,” Mr Bissen said.

Mr Green also called for anyone with spare rooms across the island of Maui to open up their homes to those needing shelter.

“If you have additional space in your home, if you have the capacity to house somebody … please consider bringing those people into your lives,” Green said.

Fire chief Brad Ventura said that none of the fires were completely contained.

He said many small fires had also appeared – forcing crews to “triage” resources.

“It’s still very, very hazardous … things are falling every minute around us, and some people have been hurt,” he added

Police chief John Pelletier believes that about 1,000 people were missing, and power outages were making it hard to contact and find people.

Fuelled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, the fire started on Tuesday and took Maui by surprise, racing through parched growth covering the island and then feasting on homes and anything else that lay in its path.

 

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