Rafu Staff and Wire Service Reports
HONOLULU — At least six people were confirmed dead and scores injured on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Wednesday, as wind-driven fires were devastating communities there.
Acting Hawaii Gov. Sylvia Luke, acting on behalf of Gov. Josh Green, had already issued an emergency proclamation on Tuesday relating to wildfires on Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii that are being fueled by dry conditions and winds from Hurricane Dora, churning far south of the islands.
“We are closely following the wildfires caused by the strong winds of Hurricane Dora,” said Luke. “The safety of our residents is paramount, and this emergency proclamation will activate the Hawaii National Guard to support emergency responders in the impacted communities.”
Green has been fully briefed on Hurricane Dora and its impacts. “Lt. Gov. Luke has my full support,” he said. “My thoughts are with the residents and businesses affected by Hurricane Dora.”
The governor had planned to return from personal travel on Aug. 15, but was expected back in Hawaii on Wednesday to address the crisis.
Media reports and social media posts have shown large areas of damage in the historic town of Lahaina, on Maui’s west coast. County fire officials said, “Multiple structures have burned and multiple evacuations are in place, as firefighter crews continue battling brush and structure fires in Upcountry and Lahaina areas.”
CNN reports the U.S. Coast Guard rescued a dozen Lahaina residents who jumped into the nearby ocean waters to escape the fires.
Hospitals on Maui are said to be packed with patients suffering fire-related injuries and illnesses, with some patients being flown to Honolulu for treatment. Strong winds have downed phone and power lines across the island, cutting off 911 and emergency services. Hawaiian Electric said about 14,500 people were without power.
A resident of Kahului, located on the opposite side of the West Maui Forest Reserve from Lahaina, told The Rafu that local reports say some 3,000 people are unaccounted for and 2,100 have evacuated to shelters.
The Hawaii State Department of Education announced that all public schools on Maui would be closed Wednesday, with the exception of Hana High School and Hana Elementary School, with Maui High being utilized as an evacuation center.
Roads connecting Lahaina with the rest of the island were closed to the public, and a county official said that fire was widespread among buildings on the popular tourist destination of Front Street.
The emergency proclamation authorizes several actions, including activation of the National Guard and appropriate actions by the director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the Administrator of Emergency Management, as well as the expenditure of state general revenue funds for relief of conditions created by Hurricane Dora.
The proclamation said several large wildfires are burning in the counties of Hawaii and Maui, including in the North Kohala, South Kohala, and Kula areas.
Luke discouraged non-essential air travel to Maui. As the wildfires continue, visitors with current and planned lodging at West Maui hotels may not have accommodations.
“This proclamation is to discourage travel to the affected areas so we can prioritize our scarce resources for Maui residents who desperately need assistance,” Luke said.
Green said in a statement, “Heroic efforts by first responders have prevented many casualties from occurring, but some loss of life is expected. Our entire emergency response team, including the Hawaii National Guard, has mobilized and is supported by FEMA. We have named Adjutant General Ken Hara as our state incident commander. He was my partner in Hawaii’s successful COVID response.
“The White House has been incredibly supportive and we expect to submit a request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration in the next 36 to 48 hours, depending on how vast the damage is.
“Our state appreciates the incredible outpouring of concern and prayers from the mainland. We won’t forget the aloha you have already begun to share with us.”