At least 36 people were killed in a brush fire that broke out on Maui’s west coast on Tuesday. The fire quickly engulfed the seaside town of Lahaina, forcing many residents to flee into the ocean to escape. President Joe Biden declared the fires a “major disaster” and unlocked federal aid for relief efforts, but residents said they needed more help and feared it would take years for the town to recover.
The fire started on Tuesday afternoon and quickly spread, driven by strong winds. The flames engulfed homes, businesses, and vehicles, and forced thousands of people to evacuate. Many residents who were unable to evacuate fled into the ocean to escape the flames.
The Coast Guard rescued more than 50 people from the water, but some people are still missing. The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are recovered.
President Biden declared the fires a “major disaster” on Wednesday, unlocking federal aid for relief efforts. However, residents said they needed more help and feared it would take years for the town to recover.
“We have been pulling people out… We’re trying to save people’s lives, and I feel like we are not getting the help we need,” resident Lansford told CBS. “We still get dead bodies in the water floating and on the seawall.”
Mayor Richard Bissen said that the community is grieving the loss of life and property.
“With lives lost and properties decimated, we are grieving with each other during this inconsolable time,” he said in a video posted to Facebook.
“In the days ahead, we will be stronger as a (community)…” he added, “as we rebuild with resilience and aloha.”
President Biden also sent his condolences to the families of the victims.
“Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the wildfires in Maui,” he said in a statement. “Our prayers are with those whose homes, businesses, and communities are destroyed. We are grateful to the first responders putting themselves in harm’s way to save lives.”
The fires are still burning, and the full extent of the damage is not yet known. However, it is clear that this is a major disaster for the Maui community. The people of Maui will need a lot of support to rebuild their lives and their community.