At least 36 people have died and 11,000 have been evacuated, as wildfires devastate the historic town of Lahaina in Hawaii.
Fanned by winds from a faraway hurricane, multiple neighbourhoods have been burned to the ground.
Thousands were told to evacuate as officials confirmed widespread devastation to Lahaina, its harbour and surrounding areas.
Once bustling with people, now the streets are populated with burnt-out cars. Adults and children were forced to dive into the ocean, seeking safety as flames ravaged through the night.
Flyovers conducted by the US Civil Air Patrol and the Maui Fire Department reported that approximately 271 structures were damaged or destroyed.
“We just had the worst disaster I’ve ever seen. All of Lahaina is burnt to a crisp. It’s like an apocalypse,” said Lahaina resident Mason Jarvi.
Helicopter pilot Richard Olsten told Hawaii News Now: “It’s like an area was bombed. It’s like a war zone.”
Wildfire roars through Hawaii’s historic Lahaina
Hurricane Dora is fuelling Hawaii wildfires. Here’s how
The wildfires in Hawaii damaging buildings and leading to evacuations are spurred on by heavy winds coming from Hurricane Dora off the islands’ coast.
The storm was moving west across the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles south of Hawaii on Wednesday.
To the west of Maui, residents scarpered into the ocean to avoid the fires and smoke. County officials said they were rescued by the US Coast Guard.
Winds reached up to 45 miles an hour, with gusts of up to 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The agency told residents on social media to secure their property and to prepare for lost power and travel disruptions.
Three active fires remain unchanged according to authorities
There are still three active fires on Maui as of Thursday morning, the County of Maui reported in an update on Facebook.
“There are no new evaucations. There are no containment numbers at this time,” the post reads.
Firefighters have been working tirelessly to contain the fires and deal with multiple flareups. Firefighters from Honolulu have been requested to help.
The Maui Fire Department said it will conduct an assessment at first light on Thursday.
Wildfires sent Hawaiians fleeing into the ocean. It could be the state’s worst natural disaster in decades
Wildfires raging out of control in Hawaii have claimed at least six lives, caused large numbers of burn and smoke inhalation injuries, knocked out 911 and cell services, forced residents to escape into the ocean, and brought down power to thousands of homes, officials say.
Several large fires on Maui and the Big Island, partly fuelled by strong winds from Hurricane Dora, have destroyed dozens of homes and businesses and completely cut off affected areas.
Maui County mayor Richard Bissen Jr confirmed at least six people had died on the island at a press conference on Wednesday, while several others remain unaccounted for.
Acting governor Sylvia Luke had earlier issued an emergency proclamation and pleaded with federal officials to declare an emergency.
Maui wildfires map: Where are the Hawaii fires?
Thousands of residents in Hawaii have been racing to escape their homes as deadly wildfires swept across the island of Maui, killing at least 36 people in one of the worst US wildfires in recent years.
US senator Brian Schatz said the historic town of Lahaina, which dates back to the 1700s, is almost totally burnt to the ground, with the blaze leaving behind smoking piles of rubble where historic buildings stood.
Maui County officials said that at least 36 people have died, with dozens others injured.
The fires were whipped by strong winds from Hurricane Dora passing far to the south. It’s the latest in a series of disasters caused by extreme weather around the globe this summer. Experts say climate change is increasing the likelihood of such events.
What are officials saying?
Hawaii Governor Josh Brown, who is cutting a vacation short to return to the fire-stricken state, said in a statement: “Heroic efforts by first responders have prevented many casualties from occurring, but some loss of life is expected.
“We have suffered a terrible disaster in the form of a wildfire that has spread widely as a result of hurricane-force winds in the region and underlying drought conditions. Maui and the Big Island both experienced significant fires. Much of Lāhainā on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced.”
He is expecting to make a formal request for federal assistance in the next few days.