A wildfire on the Hawaiian island of Maui has claimed the lives of 36 people and left a path of destruction in its wake. Firefighters are working to extinguish the fire.
According to the Associated Press, the fire started on Tuesday and rapidly overtook neighborhoods in Lahaina, a historic town with the largest community on the west side of Maui. Dry summer conditions mixed with strong winds from a passing hurricane, Hurricane Dora, expedited the fire's growth.
This is the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in the last five years.
The death toll could rise as rescuers work to access areas that were previously unreachable because of the fire.
The blaze has also damaged or destroyed 271 structures and left dozens of people injured.
"We are still in life preservation mode. Search and rescue is still a primary concern," Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Adam Weintraub said on Thursday.
"What we have here is a natural disaster. There may have been questions that need to be examined about whether it was handled in the right way. But we still got people in danger. We still have people who don't have homes. We still have people who can't find their loved ones," he added, noting that some areas are still inaccessible because of the fire.
President Joe Biden, on Thursday, declared the fire a "major disaster" and ordered federal aid to be distributed to help state and local authorities with relief and recovery efforts.
I have ordered all available federal assets on the Islands to help with response.— President Biden (@POTUS) August 9, 2023
And I urge all residents to continue to follow evacuation orders, listen to the instructions of first responders and officials, and stay alert.
"Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster," the order declares, according to The White House.
"Federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures in Maui County, and assistance for emergency protective measures for Hawaii County."
Evangelical humanitarian aid organization Samaritan's Purse is working with local church partners and emergency response teams to determine how it can best aid Maui residents.
"Can you imagine having to run into the ocean to keep from being burned? That's what some people on the island of Maui had to do. Their island has been engulfed in deadly wildfires—36 people have already been confirmed dead. The historic town of Lahaina burned to the ground. Thousands have evacuated," Samaritan's Purse President and CEO Franklin Graham wrote in a statement on Facebook. "Pray for residents, first responders, and leadership in the wake of this devastating disaster. We are working with local officials and churches to assess how Samaritan's Purse Disaster Relief and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Rapid Response Chaplains can best help."
Photo courtesy: ©Unsplash/Andy Watkins
Kayla Koslosky has been the Editor of ChristianHeadlines.com since 2018. She has B.A. degrees in English and History and previously wrote for and was the managing editor of the Yellow Jacket newspaper. She has also contributed to IBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com.