Wildfires could be deadliest disaster in Hawaii history as death toll climbs to 55

The death toll from the devastating wildfires on the island of Maui, Hawaii, has now climbed to 55 – as officials warned that the loss of life is expected to rise further.

More fatalities were confirmed on Thursday, taking the total to 53 victims.

Hawaii Governor Josh Green said that around 1,000 people are still unaccounted for, as he said that the Aloha State is headed for its deadliest disaster in state history.

Mr Green said that those unaccounted for are not presumed dead but that hundreds have been left without communications and so their safety is unclear.

“Here’s the challenge: there’s no power, no internet, no phone, no radio. You compound some of that. So when we’re speaking to our officers, we need them to get a sat phone,” he said.

The wildfires continue to devastate Lahaina, with more than 1,700 buildings and billions of dollars in property destroyed.

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said that the historic town has been totally wiped out.

“It’s all gone. None of it’s there. It’s all burnt to the ground,” Mr Bissen said.

Wildfire roars through Hawaii’s historic Lahaina

Death toll may rise as building interiors have yet to be searched.

As of Friday morning, a total of 55 people have died as a result of the devastating wildfires in Maui, Hawaii – but that number could increase.

Richard Bissen, the mayor of Maui County said the death toll is only based on people who were found outside as the inside of buildings have yet to be searched, he told TODAY.

“Right now our focus is finding any missing persons,” Mr Bissen said. “We want to reunite families.”

Authorities are waiting for FEMA officials to help in the interior search for people.

Hawaii Tourism Authority asks non-essential travellers to leave Hawaii

For those looking to travel to Hawaii or currently travelling to Hawaii, authorities are asking to cancel or return home so hotels can be used to provide shelter for those who have lot their homes.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Hawaii’s State Department of Transportation director said non-essential travel to Maui was strongly discouraged.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) echoed the statement saying: “Non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged at this time. Visitors currently on Maui for non-essential travel reasons are being asked to leave the island as rescue and recovery efforts continue.”

Maui updates will air daily on public radio stations

As Maui works to recover those who have died in the massive wildfires and rebuild the neighbourhoods that have been burned down, the County of Maui will provide daily updates via radio.

Beginning on Friday at 9am HST, the County of Maui will provide updates twice a day – once at 9am and another at 3pm.

The updates will allow those without internet service or electricity to hear the latest in the recovery efforts. Other information will be available on the County of Maui’s social media pages and website.

The following radio stations will have the updates:

• Pacific Media Group on KPOA FM 92.9 (west side)

• FM 93.5; KJKS FM 99.3 (west side)

• FM 99.9 FM; KJMD FM 107.1 (west side)

• FM 98.3; KHLI FM 101.7 (west side)

• FM 92.5; KMVI AM 900

• FM 102.5

• KNUI AM 550

• FM 106.1

• KAOI Radio Group on 1110 AM / 96.7 FM

• KPMW FM 105.5

• Akaku’s KAKU 88.5

Oldest hotel in Hawaii destroyed by wildfires

The oldest hotel in Hawaii is one of the thousands of buildings destroyed by the wildfires that have ravaged the historic town of Lahaina in Maui.

The Pioneer Inn began operating as a hotel back in 1901, making it 122 years old today.

On Wednesday, Best Western Hotels – which now runs the storied hotel – confirmed that it had been lost to the wildfires on 9 August.

All guests were safely evacuated from the hotel and its restaurant Papa’aina, famed for its brunches.

The restaurant’s chef Lee Ann Wong took to Facebook to speak of the “devastating loss and tragedy that is unfolding on Maui” this week.

“Heartbroken. There are no words for the devastating loss and tragedy that is unfolding on Maui as reports start to come in of loss of human life, behind the hundreds of homes and businesses that have fallen to yesterday’s brush fires that are still raging on the west side,” she wrote.

“We are still looking to connect with at least a half dozen employees but cell towers have been down since early yesterday morning. Thank you to all who have reached out to me personally and to @papaainamaui.

:Historic Lahaina has been my place of business for the past three years and the Pioneer Inn became my second home on Maui. I don’t even know where to begin, but today is just for making sure our friends and coworkers are safe. To those who are concerned for #alextheparrot , Alex was safely evacuated yesterday and is in the care of the hotel’s GM.

“My culinary community, my friends, my people, I know you all want to help and there is already movement and response from several organizations, as soon as I find out more will share. Stay safe out there.”

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