Losergeek.org, Kahalui, Hawaii – The death toll from a wildfire that has turned the resort town of Lahaina on Hawaii’s Maui island into smoldering ruins was expected to rise “very significantly” on Thursday, August 10, according to Hawaii Governor Josh Green.
Officials have said at least 36 people have died after the fires broke out late on Tuesday, and scores more have suffered burns, smoke inhalation, and other injuries. Search and rescue efforts continue, and thousands of people have fled the area, into emergency shelters and off the island.
“We do know that more people will have perished,” Green told CNN ahead of a press conference planned for Thursday evening. “You’ll see the numbers go into the 40s today at the least.”
The fires reduced entire neighborhoods to ashes on the western side of the U.S. island. Lahaina is one of Maui’s prime attractions, drawing 2 million tourists to the island each year, or about 80 percent of the island’s visitors.
The wildfires took most of Lahaina’s residents and visitors by surprise when they broke out, forcing some to jump into the ocean to escape the fast-moving inferno.
Nicoangelo Knickerbocker, a 21-year-old resident of Lahaina, had just awoken from a nap on Tuesday evening when he saw the fires burning through his hometown. His mother and sister fled, while he and some friends went to neighbors’ houses, helping people pack belongings and fruitlessly trying to stem the flames with garden hoses.
“It was so hot all around me, I felt like my shirt was about to catch on fire,” he said from one of the four emergency shelters opened on the island. The shelters are housing more than 2,100 people, Hawaii News Now said.
Knickerbocker heard cars and a gas station explode, and soon after fled the town with his father, bringing with them only the clothes they were wearing and the family dog. “It sounded like a war was going on,” he said.
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