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Hell in Hawaii: Death and Destruction in America’s Worst Wildfire in 100 Years

People throwing themselves into the sea to escape the flames. Drivers trapped inside cars. Residents sending cell phone messages to families before disappearing. All hell broke loose in Hawaii with a wave of fires so voracious and persistent that the flames that broke out on the night of August 8th consumed the historic city of Lahaina, now practically reduced to ashes.

With an apocalyptic scenario on the paradise island of Maui, Hawaii, the number of dead and missing is still uncertain, with thousands displaced and displaced. Three deadly fronts, with the worst in Lahaina, make this the worst fire wave in the last hundred years in the United States, surpassing the tragedy that happened in California in 2018, when the Camp Fire killed 85 people and destroyed the city of Paradise.

State officials said earlier this week that there are 99 confirmed dead. They were children, parents, grandparents, residents who could not escape. Hawaii Governor Josh Green said Monday that the number of fatalities is expected to rise “very significantly” over the next 10 days as rescue and recovery operations progress. It could take weeks before there is a more concrete idea of the number of victims and the damage caused by the fires, triggered by a combination of effects during Hurricane Dora.

“We had never seen a fire that affected a city like this”, the governor had already said, in one of the first reactions to the destruction of Lahaina. The official described the fire ignited by the winds of a hurricane that passed hundreds of kilometers away as a “shock”.

“I think we’re seeing this in many parts of the world, fires from California to Colorado,” said Green, pointing to climate change as one of the reasons for the disaster. “It is difficult, at a time when global warming is being combined with increasingly strong storms and droughts”, he underlined. “Climate change is here and it’s affecting the islands, and I think that’s what we’re seeing with this fire.” The number of fires has quadrupled in Hawaii in recent decades and Green said this could be the worst natural disaster ever in the state. The governor, who has already issued five emergency proclamations related to the fires, estimated damages of around US$6 billion (5.4 billion euros), while his government asked tourists to leave the island, with many hotels to shelter the displaced.

President Joe Biden approved the disaster declaration on August 10 and provided access to federal emergency funds to assist Maui residents. Maona N. Ngwira, head of FEMA – the federal emergency response agency – was appointed coordinator of recovery operations in the affected areas.

Read more in Diário de Notícias

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