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Sen Schatz: “Banyan tree looks to be still standing but very little else.”

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The fire in Lahaina may be almost contained, 80% at last report, but it will take a lot longer for the shock to ease.

“Lahaina Town has been reduced to ashes. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. The recovery process will be long, but we’re committed to these families and communities,” wrote U.S. Senator Brian Schatz on X (D-HI) after his tour of the devastation.

The pictures are familiar to those who have witnessed any major natural disaster. Burnt-out vehicles and property reduced to ashes

Lives were uprooted, valuables lost, and precious family mementos destroyed.

55 people are reported dead as of Friday morning, up from 53 on Thursday evening.

“The sugar mill is still in place, the lighthouse is still in place, the Banyan Tree looks to be still standing, but very little else,” said Schatz.

Much of the Banyan Tree has been scarred by fire
via US Senator Brian Schatz Twitter

President Biden declared a major disaster area in the state of Hawaii on Thursday, making federal aid available to assist both the victims and in the recovery.

“We working as quickly as possible to assist firefighters and evacuate residents and tourists,” said Biden. “Our prayers are with the people of Hawai’i, but not just our prayers. Every asset we have will be available to them. They’ve seen their homes, their businesses destroyed, and some have lost loved ones and it’s not over yet.”

The fire remains under investigation and no official cause has been released.

However, USA Today says a combination of weather factors contributed to its rapid spread.

Gusting winds of up to 170 miles per hour from Hurricane Dora which was south of Hawaii increased the oxygen supply to the flames. Winds on Maui itself reached gusts of as much as 67 miles per hour on the island itself by early Wednesday.

US Senator Brian Schatz surveys the damage on Front Street in Lahaina
via US Senator Brian Schatz Twitter

Low humidity caused grasses and pine needles to dry out more quickly and become more flammable.

Hawaii also is in the middle of a drought with rain levels 90% below what they were 100 years ago.

Add all this up and it resulted in an immeasurable amount of human suffering.

“I’ve got nothing left”, said Thomas Leonard, a retired mailman and Vietnam Veteran to Sky News. “I’m a disabled vet, so now I’m a homeless vet.”

Some are wondering the extent climate change has led to extreme fire conditions.

Dr. Giuseppe Torri, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Hawaii told NPR that changes in land use in Hawaii over the last century play a factor. He says wild land has been converted to agricultural land that can cause changes in weather patterns to occur.

“So I would say there are different components to this. To some degree, this is part of the natural variability of the climate. We do, however, observe there had been considerable drying over the Hawaiian Islands, particularly on the leeward side. And this is consistent with what some of the models project for future climates,” he said.

Those interested in donating to help Maui recover can give to these two organizations:

Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

Hawaii Community Foundation Maui Strong Fund

Hawaii’s Peoples Fund

Maui Mutual Aid Fund

Kako’o Maui Donation Campaign

Maui Aloha: The People’s Response

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