By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
(Editor Note: This story has been updated with a new death toll as of 9:33 ET, Aug 10)
Robyne Nakao has heard the news about the devastating fires in Maui.
She’s read about the loss of property. She’s been notified to evacuate.
For now, she, her husband Howard and their 22-year-old son Jayase are staying put.
They live in Kula-about 45 miles from Lahaina where much of it has been destroyed including the popular tourist area on Front Street. At least 36 people are reported dead.
There are also reports that the famed Banyan Tree has been burned down as well, but she says authorities have been too busy to confirm the loss of any property or landmarks.
From her home, Nakao can see flames both below her down the hill and above her atop a hill.
Hurricane Dora is right now hundreds of miles south of Hawaii, but it whipped up strong winds that sparked powerlines and caused fires to erupt throughout Maui.
“People are frantically trying to reach their loved ones,” she told AsAmNews by phone.
Nakao said her cousin Deron returned from a business trip from Oahu last night and from the sky could see the flames beneath him.
He lives in an area far from the fires on Maui and has not been asked to evacuate.
“We’re nervous. It s the first time the fires got so close. This is the first time the fire evacuated everyone.
“We were up all night. We haven’t had power since 3:30 yesterday afternoon, The power was going in and out. We had it for a few hours, but it was on and off,” she said.
Maui County ordered parts of Kula to evacuate yesterday at 3:50 p.m. She said she saw her neighbors leave, but their animals have been left behind.
Nakao describes herself as a cat person and can’t think of leaving them behind.
Her family has packed up all their valuables as well as important papers. She says if necessary she will crate her cat and two dogs as well as many of the outdoor stray cats she has adopted. She says there are about a dozen of them.
Then she says she will leave if there is no other choice.
The couple has also sprayed down the exterior of their home and the surrounding area in an effort to moisten a grassy area that has been largely dried out.
Winds are unpredictable and can whip up fire in a matter of seconds. Once that happens, it can be impossible to outrace the flames. Authorities say evacuation orders should be taken seriously.
Those who don’t obey the orders are often left on their own to fend for themselves.
“What do you do? I know you are supposed to prioritize human life over animals. But we can hear all the animals- I couldn’t leave as easily as my neighbors,” she said.
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