Wildfires fanned by winds of a distant hurricane killed at least six people and devastated much of the resort city Lahaina on Hawaii’s Maui island on Wednesday, forcing thousands to evacuate as some fled into the ocean to escape the smoke and flames.

Multiple neighborhoods were burnt to the ground as the western side of the island was nearly cut off with only one highway open as officials told of widespread devastation that was still too early to quantify.

“We just had the worst disaster I’ve ever seen. All of Lahaina is burnt to a crisp. It’s like an apocalypse,” said Lahaina resident Mason Jarvi, who escaped from the city. Jarvis slowed Reuters pictures he took of the ashen-colored destruction along the Lahaina waterfront. Wearing shorts, he also showed blisters on his thigh that he said he suffered when riding through flames on his electric bike to save his dog.

Aerial video showed pillars of smoke rising from block after block of Lahaina, the largest tourist destination on Maui and home to multiple large hotels.”It’s like an area was bombed. It’s like a war zone,” said helicopter pilot Richard Olsten, according to Hawaii News Now.With firefighters battling three major blazes, western Maui was closed to all but emergency workers and evacuees.

The fires, which started Tuesday night, also scorched parts  ..

The fires, which started Tuesday night, also scorched parts of the Big Island of Hawaii. The state said thousands of acres burned.

At least 4,000 tourists were trying to leave western Maui, said Ed Sniffen of the Hawaii Department of Transportation. Though at least 16 roads were closed, the Maui airport was operating fully and airlines were dropping fares and offering waivers to get people off the island, Sniffen said.Panicked evacuees posted images on social media showing clouds of smoke billowing over once-idyllic beaches and palm trees.

“I was the last one off the dock when the firestorm came through the banyan trees and took everything with it. And I just ran out and helped everyone I could along the way,” said Dustin Johnson, who was in Lahaina Harbor working for a charter boat company that offers two-hour tours. He spoke from Kahului Airport, normally a 25-minute drive east of Lahaina.Some people were forced to jump into the Pacific Ocean to escape the smoke and fire conditions, prompting the US Coast Guard to rescue them, according to a Maui County press release.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *