Wildfires have raged in Maui, Hawaii’s second-largest island, since Tuesday. So far, 80 people have been killed in the fires, and the biggest concern is that this is not a final count • Residents were allowed to return to the city to check if anything was left of their homes and possibly salvage personal belongings, most of them found only smoked odes.
One survivor says: “Every time I close my eyes, I see the Armadgon”
Ryan Aguiren was unable to return over the weekend to his hometown of Lahaina, in the Hawaiian Islands. “Every time I close my eyes, I see Armadgon,” the young man told the BBC. A few days ago, he stayed in Lahaina when the fire raged in his house, pouring buckets of water on the house on fire, until he finally threw up his hands and evacuated. “I can’t sleep,” he added. “Hayana will never be what she was before the fire.”
Since Tuesday evening local time, wildfires have raged on Maui, Hawaii’s second-largest island, and it is already clear that this is the greatest natural disaster in the history of this piece of paradise in the Pacific Ocean. So far, 80 people have been killed in the fires, and the biggest concern is that the count is not final: about 1,000 people are still presumed missing, and only yesterday was it possible to search the hundreds of charred buildings left in Lahaina.
Over the weekend, firefighters dealt with a fire that broke out in several other points on the island west of Lahaina, and reportedly managed to bring the locations under control. Lahaina residents were allowed to return to the city on Friday to check if anything was left of their homes and possibly salvage personal belongings. Most of them found only smoked odes. “I came back, but there was no home,” Sarah Salmonissi, 33, an intensive care nurse, told The New York Times as she sat on the rubble that until a few days ago was the second floor of her home, a few steps from the ocean.
Meanwhile, questions are mounting about the authorities’ response to Tuesday’s emergency. Local residents and tourists said they heard no warning of the approaching fire until they saw flames inside Lahaina itself. “We didn’t hear anything until the manager of the Airbnb property called and said we had to evacuate,” Ti Dang, a tourist from Kansas, told the BBC. “We didn’t know what to do, so we just gathered our things and ran. By the time we got into the car, fire was everywhere. It spread so fast that we finally had to leap into the ocean.”
Lee Moon, 42, a Lahaina resident, said he was sitting with neighbors in a residential building when she smelled smoke and noticed soot building up on the windows. “At that moment, everyone panicked. While we were packing, the fire came to the building and everything was filled with black.” A similar testimony was given to CBS by Dustin Cleopo, also a resident of Lahaina. “I only realized something was happening when the smoke was already bursting through the windows,” he said. “By the time we got into the car, the neighbor’s yard was full of fire and strangers were trying to put it out with hoses.”
Governor Josh Greene told CNN that he authorized a review of emergency responders’ response. Attorney General Ann Lopes has already begun her work. Hawaii Fire Chief Bradford Ventura said Thursday that the fire spread so rapidly that updating all residents on time “was an almost impossible task.”
New fires broke out on Saturday in other parts of the island, including Kula, Makawao and Haiku. So far, 15,500 hectares have been burned, 1,600 houses have been destroyed, and at least 200 buildings have been damaged.