(NEW YORK) — Dangerous wildfires are spreading rapidly across Maui due to very dry conditions stemming from a drought combined with powerful trade winds being squeezed across Hawaii. The Big Island of Hawaii has also been affected by wildfires, officials said.
While there has been no confirmation of any fatalities, “some loss of life is expected,” Gov. Josh Green said, and much of Lahaina has been “destroyed.” A state of emergency has been declared for the whole island, while all nonessential travel to the vacation destination is being discouraged, officials said.
The winds are being caused by a strong high pressure system to the north and a strong low pressure system — Hurricane Dora — well to the south.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern.
Aug 09, 4:43 PM EDT
‘Our beautiful island has been ravaged by fires’
Maui Chamber of Commerce President Pamela Tumpap detailed the level of devastation in a phone interview with ABC News Live.
“Our beautiful island has been ravaged by fires from the mountain to the ocean,” Tumpap said.
Tumpap said some areas look like they have been “completely leveled.”
“We’ve lost a lot of homes and we’ve lost a lot of business places and we’ve lost cultural and historic resources that were in the Chinatown that have burned to the ground,” Tumpap said. “We are seeing fires unlike what we’ve ever seen before.”
Tumpap cautioned travelers against coming to the island, saying it is “not going to be the Maui vacation that you planned” and visitors will have a hard time finding resources.
Aug 09, 4:20 PM EDT
At least 6 deaths reported in Maui, mayor says
There have been at least six deaths reported in Maui County amid devastating wildfires, officials said.
“We’re still in a search and rescue mode, and so I don’t know what will happen to that number,” Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon.
More than 2,100 people are in shelters in Maui County, he said.
Shelters are “overrun” amid the disaster, Hawaii Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke said while urging tourists not to travel there.
“This is not a safe place to be,” she said.
Aug 09, 4:01 PM EDT
Mother evacuates in middle of the night with 2 children
Maui resident Malika Dudley described to ABC News Live her experience evacuating from the raging wildfires in Hawaii with her two children in the middle of the night.
Currently in Haliimaile, which is on the slopes of Haleakalā, Dudley can still see the fire from the mountain growing and spreading.
“We were in the very first evacuation at 1 a.m.. I started to smell smoke in my home, and I woke my husband up and he said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it.’ At 1:30, I thought, ‘No, something’s on fire in our house."”
Eventually, Dudley, who is also a meteorologist for ABC affiliate KITV, got a call from their neighbor and the fire was right above their property.
“We got a call from our neighbor who said, ‘Get out of your house.’ And we looked out the window and there was a red glow outside of our window,” she said. “The fire was right above our property.”
Aug 09, 3:50 PM EDT
Hawaii governor: ‘Some loss of life is expected’
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green warned “some loss of life is expected” amid the wildfires.
“Heroic efforts by first responders have prevented many casualties from occurring, but some loss of life is expected,” Green said in a statement Wednesday. “Our entire emergency response team, including the Hawai‘i National Guard has mobilized and is being supported by FEMA.”
Green will be returning to the islands immediately due to the wildfire emergency, his office announced.
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