Hawaii fires: 36 people dead as fires destroy parts of town in Maui leading to mass evacuations
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At least 36 people have died after wildfires wrecked havoc through parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui. Several more people are unaccounted for while hospitals in Maui are overwhelmed by burns and smoke inhalation victims, officials have said.
Six people were confirmed dead on Wednesday (9 August) by Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr in a news conference, at which he said that emergency services were "still in search-and-rescue mode", but today it was confirmed by officials that 36 people have now died.
During Wednesday's news conference, Mr Bissen Jr added that a number of homes and business structures have been completely destroyed. Brian Schatz, a US senator from Hawaii, said on social media that Lahaina, a town on the island, is "almost totally burnt to the ground".
Thousands remain without power or cell phone service due to the fires, and 911 services in West Maui were down on Wednesday. Officials said that three large fires remain active and out of control on Maui.
The National Weather Service said the flames were fanned by Hurricane Dora, which passed Hawaii at a distance but brought with it gusts of above 60 mph (97k/h), coupled with low humidity levels.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said that the federal government has sent assistance to Hawaii as it battles the flames and continues with rescue efforts.
Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke, said: “This is not a safe place to be. Certain parts of Maui, we have shelters that are overrun. We have resources that are being taxed."
Ms Luke told CNN that the state was facing an “unprecedented” natural disaster and called on the White House to declare a federal emergency to provide immediate support. The White House hasn’t yet declared a federal disaster, but said on Wednesday it was directing all available assets from the US Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines to assist in the rescue effort.
The fires come just weeks after thousands were evacuated from areas in Greece, including Rhodes and Corfu. Wildfires have also been raging in Portugal and Italy as Europe deals with high summer temperatures.