At least 53 people are dead and another 14,000 evacuated from the path of the devastating Maui fire.
The evacuations from the island are expected to double by the end of the day.
CNN reports that the death toll is sadly surely to rise. 17 of the additional people killed were in Lahaina, a scene of massive devastation.
“It’s devastating. It’s like something you would see out of a movie that you can’t actually believe that’s happening to your hometown. People fleeing for their lives, jumping in the ocean, as they’re watching Lahaina Town Front Street and the harbor being burnt…The first capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom is… gone,” 46-year-old Torie Hoʻopiʻi said to Hawaii Public Radio.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said he is deploying 11 members of the state’s search and rescue team to Maui.
“California stands with the people of Maui and all Hawaiians amid these horrific wildfires that have claimed lives and destroyed the historic town of Lāhainā,” said Governor Newsom. “Californians know firsthand the devastating toll of catastrophic wildfires fueled by climate change, capable of wiping out entire communities and centuries of irreplaceable history and heritage. Our state is sending resources to support our Pacific neighbors during their time of need.”
Lahaina became the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom in the early 1800s. The Waiola Church celebrated its 200th anniversary this year. It’s believed to have been destroyed. The church is also the graveyard to Hawaiian royalty.
The town also is known historically as a center for whaling and fishing, according to NBC News.
Efforts to develop Front Street met up with resistance from the town’s people.
“When the whaling industry got established and they pushed out subsistence fishing, there were protests on construction pretty much every step of the way,” Ing said. “Our ancestors, especially Native Hawaiians fought them every step of the way. Front Street is also a reminder of that history of resistance.”
Lahaina is also the site of the famed Banyan Tree, the largest tree in the United States that was planted to mark the 50th anniversary of the protestant mission in 1873.
The New York Times reports the tree has been scarred by fire, and it is uncertain whether it will survive.
As of 1 pm Maui time or 7:30 Eastern time, the fire is 80 percent contained in Lahaina.
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