At least 36 people were killed as a result of rapid growing wildfires on Hawaii's island of Maui.
The powerful blaze has almost completely destroyed the historic town of Lahaina. Additionally, approximately 271 structures have been permanently ruined or broken. Family homes have been reduced entirely to ashes, leading to hundreds of people being forced to evacuate, some of who were forced to jump into the ocean in order to avoid the smoke and flames. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 people from the water, including two children, on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, the cause of the severe ongoing wildfires remains largely unknown. However, it is important to note that the majority of Hawaii was placed under a red flag warning for fire risks prior to the fire breaking out, and events escalated quickly after the initial ignition.
Experts cite a number of factors such as prolonged dry conditions, low humidity and high winds as contributors that eventually led to the severe wildfires. The National Weather Service observed that the strong winds, which continued to add momentum to the flames, were fueled by Hurricane Dora, a storm that was present across the Pacific Ocean about hundreds of miles south of the Hawaiian islands. Dora's low pressure and high pressure from the opposite direction in the north resulted in forceful trade winds.
Acting Hawaii Gov. Sylvia Luke issued an extended emergency proclamation on Wednesday.