Hawaii wildfires: Dozens killed as flames rage across Maui

At least 36 lives lost in resort of Lahaina as passing tornado fans blazes

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Wildfires that that have torn across the Hawaiian island of Maui since early on Wednesday have led to at least 36 deaths and thousands fleeing for their lives.

Firefighters were trying to contain the blazes in the tourist hub of West Maui and a mountainous region inland. President Joe Biden pledged federal support for the effort and said he had ordered the military to assist first responders in Hawaii, but weather conditions re hampering the ability to get planes in the air to drop water to quell the fires.

"I have ordered all available federal assets on the islands to help with response," said Mr Biden, after expressing his "deepest condolences" and sending "prayers" to those affected.

The known toll has risen from six to 36 but authorities are yet to have a clear picture of the full extent of loss of life and the damage exacted by the wildfires.

The National Weather Service said the combined forces of a strong high pressure system and winds produced by Hurricane Dora were contributing factors to winds that have also downed power lines, cutting power and making communications very difficult.

Governor Josh Green said: “We have suffered a terrible disaster in the form of a wildfire hat has spread widely as a result of hurricane-force winds in the region and underlying drought conditions.”

A representative for Maui County said it was not clear how many buildings had been destroyed.

“Much of Lahaina on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced,” he said.

Mr Green was away on personal travel, AP reported, while acting governor Sylvia Luke issued an emergency proclamation in his absence.

The Governor has been in contact with the White House, and is preparing to request emergency federal assistance sometime in the next two days, his office said in a news release.

“We are closely following the wildfires caused by the strong winds of Hurricane Dora,” Ms Luke said.

Fast-moving wildfires hit US state of Hawaii

Fast-moving wildfires hit US state of Hawaii

“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.”

Some residents had also taken to entering the ocean to escape the smoke and fire, Maui County said. They were rescued by the coastguard.

“Heroic efforts by first responders have prevented many casualties from occurring, but some loss of life is expected,” Mr Green said. “Our entire emergency response team, including the Hawaii National Guard has mobilised and is being supported by FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency].”

Fema has approved Hawaii's request to declare a disaster and provide federal support to the island.

In one video shared on social media, the fire can be seen raging through a street in the Lahaina city centre.

Two brush fires were also burning in the northern and southern Kohala districts of Hawaii's Big Island, the state said.

Officials are warning that wind, challenging terrain and a drop in humidity have made it difficult to predict the fires' path.

“The fire can be a mile or more from your house, but in a minute or two, it can be at your house,” assistant fire chief Jeff Giesea said on Tuesday.

“Burning airborne materials can light fires a great distance away from the main body of fire.”

Updated: August 11, 2023, 6:36 AM