At least 36 killed in Hawaii wildfires as thousands race to escape

At least 36 people have died in Maui, Hawaii, Maui County said in a news release late Wednesday, adding that no other details were available. The wildfires were fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from Hurricane Dora as it passed well south of the Hawaiian islands.

Officials said earlier that 271 structures had been damaged or destroyed and dozens of people had been injured. It is the deadliest fire since the 2018 Camp Fire in California, which killed at least 85 people and virtually razed the town of Paradise.

The fire started Tuesday and took the island by surprise, racing through dry growth and leaving behind burned-out cars on once busy streets and smoking piles of rubble where historic buildings had stood. The flames left some people with mere minutes to act and led some to flee into the ocean.

According to The Guardian and CNN, “many in Maui are still struggling with cell service, as wildfires spread through much of the island.”

911 service and cell service were down as of Wednesday morning, said Hawaii’s lieutenant governor, Sylvia Luke, to CNN.

“When the fires get too close to cell sites, they will obviously burn equipment, antennas, and feedlines,” said Glenn O’Donnell, VP of research at market research firm Forrester. “In extreme cases, they will also weaken the towers, leading some to collapse. The smoke and flames can also attenuate signals because of the particulate density in the air.”

Power outages are also a threat to cell phone towers. The Maui disaster has already wiped out power to at least 14,000 homes and businesses in the area, according to Many towers have backup power generators, but they have limited capacity to keep towers running.

Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for Hawaii, following wildfires on the island. The Federal funding was made available Thursday morning for affected residents in Maui county. Along with the declaration, President Biden also ordered that federal aid be used to supplement local recovery efforts for areas impacted by the wildfires.

AP News

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