A devastating wildfire has swept through the Hawaiian island of Maui, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The blaze, which has claimed at least 36 lives, has been described by survivors as an “apocalypse,” with homes and trees reduced to charred remains and bodies lying in the streets. The harrowing scenes were captured on video by residents fleeing the inferno on Wednesday.
The footage, shot from a moving vehicle, shows the car navigating through dense black smoke, past the flaming remnants of houses, scorched trees, and fallen power lines. At one point, the occupants of the car spot a body in the street, a chilling reminder of the human toll of the disaster.
The wildfire has also wreaked havoc on the popular resort city of Lahaina, a major tourist destination on Maui. Aerial footage reveals plumes of smoke rising from the city, which one helicopter pilot likened to a war zone. Richard Olsten, a veteran pilot with over five decades of experience, described the situation on the ground as “horrifying.”
The western side of the island has been particularly hard hit, with multiple neighborhoods reduced to ashes. With only one highway remaining open, thousands of residents are desperate to evacuate. The fire has also caused significant damage to the island’s infrastructure, with 271 structures reported damaged or destroyed.
In a desperate bid to escape the smoke and flames, some residents, including children, have taken to the ocean. The situation has been exacerbated by winds from Hurricane Dora, which is currently raging hundreds of miles to the southwest.
Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke acknowledged the scale of the disaster at a press conference, stating that the road to recovery would be long. As firefighters battle three major fires on the island, the western part of Maui has been closed to all but emergency workers and evacuees.
The disaster has also prompted a mass evacuation of tourists, with more than 11,000 people evacuated from Maui, according to Ed Sniffen of the Hawaii Department of Transportation. Despite numerous road closures, the Maui airport remains operational, with airlines offering reduced fares and waivers to facilitate the evacuation.
The human cost of the disaster is becoming increasingly apparent, with harrowing accounts of narrow escapes and loss emerging. Among them is the story of Kamuela Kawaakoa and Iiulia Yasso, who fled their home with their six-year-old son as the surrounding bushes caught fire. “It was so hard to sit there and just watch my town burn to ashes and not be able to do anything,” Kawaakoa said.
The cause of the fire is yet to be determined, but the National Weather Service has indicated that a combination of dry vegetation, strong winds, and low humidity may have contributed to the blaze.