25.02.2024

Aerial photos show extent of destruction caused by Hawaii wildfires

Aerial photos and videos of the devastating wildfires raging in Hawaii this week have revealed the destruction that has followed in their wake.

The massive wildfires have led to the deaths of at least 55 people and 1,000 missing on Hawaii island apart from devastating the historic town of Lahaina.

The photos and videos of the devastation in Maui island have shown Lahaina left in rubble as authorities fear this could be one of the worst disasters experienced by the island community in decades.

The once-vibrant heart of the oceanside community now lies destroyed – over 1,000 buildings have been reduced to ashes with no escape for those of Lahaina’s permanent residents who escaped raging fires but have witnessed their properties go up in flames.

A dozen residents were pulled from the water off the coast of Lahaina, on Maui, after “entering the ocean due to smoke and fire conditions”, according to a Maui County emergency alert.

Many more people suffered burns, smoke inhalation and other injuries.

“It’s going to take many years to rebuild Lahaina,” governor Josh Green said told a news conference, as officials began to map out a plan to shelter the newly homeless in hotels and tourist rental properties.

Experts said the fires are likely to transform the landscape in unwanted ways, including hastening erosion, sending sediment into waterways and degrading coral that is critically important to the islands, marine life and the humans who live nearby.

Aerial images showed large swathes of land and buildings – that once stood tall – charred by the fires and turning the historic town into a ghost city.

Satellite images taken by Maxar showed thick smoke covering the town where once green lush trees and houses stood.

Another image showed aerial photos before and after the destruction – with the entire seaside area reduced to rubble.

The fast-moving inferno, which started on Tuesday, spread from the brush outside of town and ravaged Lahaina, which was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

It was one of three major wildfires on Maui, all of them still burning, that were fuelled by dry conditions, a buildup of fuel and 60 mph (100 km/h) gusts of wind.

Many houses were destroyed entirely while others stood half burnt.

Another image shows dozens of burnt vehicles lined up in a parking lot as the town remains empty.

For generations, a banyan tree that stood along Lahaina town’s historic Front Street served as a gathering place.

Residents said the sprawling tree was the heart of the oceanside community – towering more than 60ft and anchored by multiple trunks that span nearly an acre.

But like the town itself, its very survival is now in question, its branches scorched by a devastating fire that has wiped away generations of history.

“There’s just so much meaning attached to it and there’s so many experiences that everyone has. It’s in the heart of a historic town,” a resident, John Sandbach, who has lived on Maui for nearly two decades, told the Associated Press.

“The town could have survived the banyan tree burning down,” he said, “but nothing can survive with the whole town burning down.”

Scenes of fiery devastation have become a familiar site in the world this summer with wildfires continuing to rage in Portugal after they started in Greece, Spain and other parts of Europe, driven by record-shattering global temperatures as a result of man-made climate crisis.

The entire northern hemisphere, from Japan to North America has experienced heating-fuelled disasters.

Canada saw its worst wildfires season this year, in which plumes of thick smog were sent up across the eastern US and even as far as Europe, ocean temperatures have left scientists shocked and Antarctica has lost record level of ice, as scientists warn situation will continue to worsen if pollution from burning fossils is not contained anytime soon.

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