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Maui wildfire that incinerated houses and killed at least 36 people now 80% contained, officials say

Written by on August 10, 2023

The deaths — reported by Maui County officials as a blaze torched the area, including the historic town of Lahaina — appear to make the wildfire the second deadliest in the United States in a century. It trails only California’s Camp Fire, which killed 85 people in 2018. 

The blaze that ravaged Lahaina was 80% contained by Thursday morning, local time, Maui County officials said in a news release. 

While survivors recall harrowing escapes by car or boat, many residents who fled still don’t know whether their homes and businesses have been reduced to ashes.

Federal officials believe thousands of people have been displaced. 

Among them is Dustin Kaleiopu, whose home in Lahaina was destroyed. “My colleagues, friends, family — we’re all homeless,” Kaleiopu said. “We’re hoping that the death toll does not rise too much higher.”

Here’s the latest:

• Billions of dollars in losses: While it’s too early to know the full magnitude of destruction, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green told CNN he estimates “billions of dollars of structural damage.”

• Dozens are dead: “As the firefighting efforts continue, 36 total fatalities have been discovered today amid the active Lahaina fire,” Maui County officials said late Wednesday night (Thursday morning ET). “No other details are available at this time.”

• Biden approves disaster declaration: The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden had approved a disaster declaration, freeing up federal aid to assist in the recovery in Maui County.

• 50 people jumped into the ocean to escape: The Coast Guard plucked more than 50 people from the Pacific Ocean who had fled wildfire flames in Lahaina this week, Capt. Aja Kirksey said Thursday. 

Initial reports suggested about 100 people fled into the water, and the Coast Guard is still looking for survivors or possibly victims who might not have survived in the ocean. But so far, “we have not received a report of any deceased or any additional survivors for us to recover,” Kirksey said Thursday morning. 

• A historic town is virtually wiped out: Much of Lahaina, where about 12,000 people live in western Maui, has been destroyed and hundreds of families there have been displaced, the governor said. More than 270 structures have been impacted in Lahaina, county officials said.

• Some are still unaccounted for: Three helicopters from the US Coast Guard and US Navy were used in search and rescue efforts along the west Maui coastline, and a federal team arrived Wednesday to help search efforts in the Lahaina area, officials said.

• Thousands don’t have cell phone service: It could take days or even weeks to fix cell phone networks in Maui. Officials have been using satellite phones to communicate with providers on the west side of Maui to restore power to the area, Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke said.

• Power outages continue: More than 10,000 homes and businesses on Maui had no power Thursday, according to Additional crews are being deployed from Oahu, Hawaiian Electric said.

• There’s not enough long-term shelter: More than 1,300 people stayed at shelters Wednesday night, Maui officials said. While there’s enough shelter for an emergency response for a few days, “there’s not enough shelter for long-term living,” the governor told CNN.

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