August 12, 2023

USA: West Maui Was Engulfed In Wildfires That Pulverized Historic Town Lahaina. Death Toll Is At 80, Expected To Be In The Hundreds. Chinese Satellites Beam Green Lasers Over Hawaii.

UPDATE 8/13/23 at 4:27pm: Added info below. 

KTLA News published August 11, 2023: At least 67 people dead from Maui wildfires as death toll continues rising.

Hawaii emergency management records show no indication that warning sirens sounded before people ran for their lives from wildfires on Maui that killed at least 67 people and wiped out a historic town. Instead, officials sent alerts to mobile phones, televisions and radio stations — but widespread power and cellular outages may have limited their reach.

The wildfires are the state’s deadliest natural disaster since a 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people. An even deadlier tsunami in 1946, which killed more than 150 people on the Big Island, prompted the development of the territory-wide emergency system that includes the sirens, which are sounded monthly to test their readiness.
Hawaii News Now published August 11, 2023: Maui Wildfire Update. The highway into Lahaina remains shut down because of unrest in the burn zone. It's not clear when it will reopen, but there's a long line of vehicles waiting to get in.

Wall Street Journal
written by Alicia A. Caldwell, Ginger Adams Otis
Saturday August 12, 2023

AHAINA, Hawaii—Residents and tourists who were briefly allowed to re-enter West Maui found a blackened landscape of destroyed homes, burnt-out cars and the smoldering embers of the wildfire that reduced the historic center of this island town to an ashy rubble.

By early Saturday, the death toll had climbed to at least 80 people, officials said. It will cost over $5 billion to rebuild from the Lahaina fire, officials estimated.

The center of Lahaina remained barricaded, officials said. People were warned to avoid the area because of toxic particles in the air and advised to wear masks and gloves. Firefighters continue to work to extinguish flare-ups and contain fires in Lahaina and two other places, Maui County officials said.

A family assistance center opened Saturday at a community center to try to help people still unable to find missing loved ones. Volunteers were also gathering at various places to distribute water, food, diapers, baby formula and other essentials.

Roughly 2,170 acres burned in the catastrophic blaze that broke out on Tuesday and ravaged Lahaina, according to initial assessments from the Pacific Disaster Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

More than 150 FEMA personnel have been deployed to Maui, the agency said Saturday, with assistance from over a dozen other federal agencies and departments. The National Guard has activated 134 troops to help with firefighting.

Federal disaster assistance is available for Hawaii residents who apply, the agency said. Disaster Survivor Assistance teams are in Maui to help residents register and address critical needs in the affected neighborhoods.

Hawaiian Electric said it had restored power to one of three main transmission lines serving West Maui and restored service to some customers in nearby Napili, Puukolii, and Mahinahina.

The hardest-hit parts of West Maui were still without power, and the utility advised customers to prepare for outages that could last several weeks. The utility also urged people to watch for the many downed power lines in the region.

Cellphone service was slowly coming back for people returning to Maui County, officials said. Nearly 1,500 people were housed in emergency evacuation shelters as of Friday night.

The wildfire destroyed or damaged thousands of structures, many of which were residential, officials said. Some residents were forced to plunge into the Pacific Ocean in a frantic bid to stay alive. The U.S. Coast Guard said it rescued 17 people from the water.

By Friday afternoon, a few local residents could be spotted riding bikes along the edges of the hardest hit section of Lahaina.

Others made their way to a shopping center parking lot just north of the top of Front Street, where supplies were being offered to those who have opted to stay in the area.

To the north and south of Lahaina, hotels where most tourists in the region stay and condominium towers were largely unscathed amid downed power lines.

On the outskirts of towns, some homes were destroyed while others remained standing, surrounded by charred lawns.

Rescue crews, sometimes accompanied by cadaver dogs, inched carefully through debris, leaving Xs on whatever they searched.

Small summer wildfires are common in the subdivisions around the historic center of Lahaina, said Kimberly Flook, deputy executive director of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, a 61-year-old nonprofit dedicated to protecting the area’s heritage.

“We’ve got some old sugar-cane fields that are no longer active and West Maui is on the dry side of the island, so just like California has its wildfire season, we have ours,” said Flook, who lives about 30 minutes outside of Lahaina, where she works.

She said many of the 14 historic sites Flook’s organization owned or managed are believed to have been destroyed or badly damaged. Some housed collections of important artifacts. In some places, only walls built from coral rock or lava rock remain, she said.

“People gravitated to Lahaina for its sense of place,” Flook said. “That, along with people’s homes, is what is lost.”
New York Post
written by Rich Calder
Saturday August 12, 2023

The catastrophic Maui wildfires have become the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii’s history, with the death toll climbing to 80 late Friday — as cadaver dogs sniffed through smoldering piles of rubble Saturday in search of more dead bodies.

The grim tally of the disaster — which started as a brush fire Tuesday night and rapidly spread — is likely to rise significantly as search and rescue operations continue, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green warned.

To aid in the frantic efforts, Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. announced that dogs trained to find bodies were brought in later Friday to scour the destruction.

A sobering assessment released Saturday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Pacific Disaster Center revealed that a total of 2,207 buildings and other structures have been damaged or destroyed as of Friday, while 2,170 acres have been burned.

It will cost an eye-watering $5.52 billion to rebuild, the agencies estimated.

“Nobody has entered any of these structures that have burned down and that’s where we unfortunately anticipate that the death toll will rise significantly,” US Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii also told MSNBC Saturday.

The raging infernos have already now become the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii’s history, surpassing that of a tsunami that killed 61 people on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1960, a year after Hawaii joined the United States.

The intense blazes have turned the beach paradise into a “war zone,” Mayor Bissen solemnly declared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday.

“The closest thing I can compare it to is perhaps a war zone where maybe a bomb went off,” he said.

Haunting photos show smoldering rubble, burning homes, leafless skeletons of charred trees, and the scorched carcasses of cars.

In the hard-hit town of Lahaina, resident Annelise Cochran told the Washington Post Saturday that “it was the closest I’ve felt to death.”

Cochran and her neighbor survived the deadly fire that ripped through Lahaina — the largest tourist destination on Maui — by spending more than five hours in the water clinging to a rock wall.

The fires have all but wiped out the historic town of 13,000 people.

Roughly 100 desperate Lahaina residents clashed with police Friday after authorities reopened — then quickly closed — the main road back to the town for the first time since the wildfires tore through the region. Officers described the confrontation as a “near-riot.”

Footage on social media showed long lines of cars heading into the fire-ravaged Lahaina after the road was opened at noon for the first time since Tuesday.

Police were screening motorists to ensure only Lahaina residents with identification, or visitors who could prove they were hotel guests in West Maui, could be let in.

But by 5 p.m., authorities shut down the road in both directions, leaving motorists furious. Some drivers parked on the highway and defiantly barged into areas locked down due to hazardous conditions.

“Those caught within this zone will be escorted out and may be arrested,” Maui County officials said in a statement.

The Maui Police Department did not immediately respond to messages from The Post, including whether there were any arrests or injuries.

Meanwhile, the state’s emergency response is facing scrutiny after officials confirmed Friday that warning sirens throughout Maui failed to activate as the wildfires ripped through the island and people had to run for their lives.

Alerts were then sent to mobile phones, television, and radio stations, however, widespread power and cellular outages limited their reach.

Gov. Green said it wasn’t clear why the sirens weren’t activated, but that the fire destroyed much of the equipment.

One Maui resident, who lives about 10 miles north of Lahaina, told CNN he “didn’t even know there was a fire” until a friend alerted him Thursday.

Attorney General Anne Lopez announced plans to conduct a comprehensive review of decision-making and policies affecting the bungled response.

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