Police close access again to fire-ravaged Lahaina amid safety concerns
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui residents and visitors were being allowed to return to parts of fire-ravaged Lahaina on Friday as the grim search for wildfire victims continues.
But about 4 p.m. Friday, police abruptly closed the road amid safety concerns.
The death toll from the catastrophic wildfire in historic Lahaina rose to 80 on Friday night.
And authorities warned that figure will almost certainly rise in the days ahead as first responders working with cadaver dogs make their way into destroyed homes and businesses.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Gov. Josh Green said historic Lahaina is “gone.”
He estimated that over 1,000 structures have been destroyed — and that recovery will cost billions of dollars and last years. “When you see the full extent of the destruction in Lahaina, it will shock you,” he said. “It does appear like a bomb and fire went off.”
State crews will open checkpoint access to parts of Lahaina at noon, restricting entry only to residents and visitors with proof of hotel reservations. Officials stressed historic Lahaina town — hardest hit by the wildfire — will remain off limits. A 10 p.m. curfew will also be in place.
Green said the state sought to prioritize reopening the area as much as possible so residents could gather needed items and assess damage to their properties. And he added while returning might bring some comfort, the scenes of destruction will also be difficult for many to process.
“Prepare yourself for the emotional turmoil because if I feel it — and I have the experience as an emergency guy who saw tragedy in the course of 25 years in the hospital — it will be shocking to a lot of other people,” Green said, speaking on Hawaii News Now Sunrise.
Authorities also want to remind residents that West Maui has no power or cell phone service.
Flames tore through historic Lahaina town on Tuesday night, fueled by winds topping 50 mph generated as Hurricane Dora passed south of the state. Residents had little time to flee and many left without any belongings. Some had to jump into the harbor’s waters to avoid the flames.
The wildfire is one of the deadliest in the US in years and the scope of devastation is unprecedented in the state’s modern history. President Biden has issued a national disaster declaration to bolster federal response and streamline the effort of distributing funds.
- Death toll from Lahaina wildfire rises to 55; governor says town is ‘gone’
- A valued source of communication, Maui radio DJs grapple with lack of information
- Green: State will likely turn to hotels to help house thousands of displaced Maui residents
- DOE: 4 West Maui public schools to remain closed for at least another week
The Lahaina fire, along with smoldering blazes in Upcountry Maui and Kihei, have forced thousands of residents from their homes. It’s unclear just how many have lost their homes entirely to the flames, but the governor is preparing to permanently house up to 2,000 people.
Meanwhile, the search for scores of people still unaccounted for continues.
And while residents are relieved that they’ll be allowed to return to parts of Lahaina, there is growing frustration about a lack of information from the county and other government entities.
Julia Aki, whose family lives in West Maui, said displaced residents need supplies — now.
“Everybody stay fighting for everything right now. My other half’s family lost everything. Everybody lost everything. We don’t know how for feel,” she said.
She said the people need “food, gas, water, anything, clothes. People out here no more nothing. They no more clothes. They no more nothing. They need stuff out here. Anything can help.”
Arlyn Campo, of Napili and a mother of two, said she is worried for her family as resources continue to dwindle. “We need formula, diapers, ice, water and food,” Campo said. “I’m a little worried because I have a 4-month-old and a 2-year-old. We just need the essentials.”
Copyright 2023 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.