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Hawaii: At least six killed in widlfires on Maui island as scores evacuate

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This image obtained from the County of Maui in Hawaii, shows a wildfire in Lahaina, on August 9, 2023 — AFP

At least six people lost their lives and scores of others were forced to vacate after wind-fueled wildfires destroyed hundreds of buildings in the historical town of Lahaina on Maui Island in Hawaii.

“We are still in a search and rescue mode, and so I don’t know what will happen to that number,” Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said.

The fire was widespread in Lahaina, a tourist town with a population of 12,000 on the northwestern tip of Maui.

Not many details were provided by the mayor regarding the circumstances surrounding the number of deaths. 

The death toll was confirmed just before a news conference with the officials. The mayor said that several people are unaccounted for including people in vehicles who haven’t gone into a shelter.

“Over 2,100 people are using the five shelters that have been opened on the island, and some of them — along with a number of hotels — lost power,” Bissen said.

Acting Governor Sylvia Luke told reporters that some shelters were “overrun” and tourists, who were still arriving on Maui Wednesday morning, were discouraged from going to the island.

“This is not a safe place to be,” Luke said.

“We have resources that are being taxed”, she added.

According to authorities, the fire blazes led people to jump into the ocean, in order to escape flames and smoke, forcing people to evacuate themselves. The coast guard had rescued a dozen people in the town of Lahaina, reported CBS News.

The hospitals confirmed that they were treating the burned patients.

Maui county officials reported Wednesday afternoon that at least 271 structures have been damaged or destroyed in the wildfires in Lahaina.

“Widespread damage to the West Maui town, the harbor, and surrounding areas are being documented,” the county said in a statement.

Gov. Josh Green said in a statement that much of the town “has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced.”

“Traffic has been very heavy as people try to evacuate and officials asked people who weren’t in an evacuation area to shelter in place to avoid adding to the traffic”, Mahina Martin, spokesperson for Maui county, told the Associated Press.

A notice has been generated all over Maui Island by the officials, advising people to conserve water and reduce the demand for existing supplies as firefighters battled the blazes.

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