Los Angeles, US, Aug 10 (EFE).- The devastating wildfires scorching the Hawaiian island of Maui have killed at least 53 people, according to officials on Thursday.
An aerial view of buildings damaged in Lahaina, Hawaii as a result of a large wildfire which has killed 6 people and forced thousands of evacuations on the island of Maui in Hawaii, USA, 09 August 2023. EFE/EPA/CARTER BARTO
“As firefighting efforts continue, 17 additional fatalities have been confirmed today amid the active Lahaina fire. This brings the death toll to 53 people,” Maui County reported Thursday afternoon in a statement.
The office had said in the morning that the fire that devastated Lahaina town was 80 percent controlled, while the Pulehu fire was 70 percent controlled and the containment percentage of a fire Upcountry was still being evaluated by firefighters.
According to this latest statement, that situation remained unchanged.
The first official toll was released on Wednesday afternoon with 36 deaths, while 14 people were rescued by the coast guard after dozens escaped the flames by jumping into the sea.
According to Hawaii Tourism Authority, 14,500 people were expected to leave the island Thursday, adding to the 14,000 already evacuated.
Airlines are offering tickets at reduced prices to facilitate departure, while new flights from this tourist island are finalized.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration in Hawaii and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by wildfires that began on Tuesday, Aug. 8.
The president’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Maui County.
A handout photo made available by the US Army National Guard on 10 August 2023 shows a Hawaii Army National Guard CH47 Chinook dropping water on a burning wildfire on the Island of Maui, Hawaii, USA, 09 August 2023 (issued 10 August 2023). EFE/EPA/MASTER SGT ANDREW JACKSON/US ARMY NATIONAL GUARD HANDOUT NO SALES, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Biden also ordered US National Guard and US Third Fleet personnel in Hawaii to do everything possible to assist local authorities.
Images show whole areas reduced to ashes and the Civil Air Patrol said that almost 300 structures had been hit by the fire.
Gov. Josh Green on Thursday told CNN he estimated that “upwards of 1,700 buildings” have been destroyed.
The severe drought that has affected the islands in recent months, as well as the strong winds from Hurricane Dora, caused the flames to spread at a much higher speed, according to local authorities.
General Kenneth Hara, deputy head of the National Guard in Hawaii, also said that the force of the winds was making firefighting difficult.