At least 36 people lost their lives after a deadly wildfire engulfed the Maui county area of Lahaina in Hawaii, sparking a mass evacuation, the government said on Thursday.
Maui County officials said more than 100 firefighters were battling the wildfires on the island, where winds were finally abating, Hawaii News Now reported Thursday.
Authorities have opened five evacuation shelters on Maui island, with officials saying they were “overrun” with people. The island is a popular tourist destination and visitors have been urged to stay away.
Hawaii Lt Governor Sylvia Luke told reporters: “We have resources that are being taxed.”
On Wednesday, at least six people died and scores of others left Maui County after wind-fueled wildfires destroyed hundreds of buildings in the historical town of Lahaina.
“We are still in a search and rescue mode, and so I don’t know what will happen to that number,” Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said Wednesday.
Lt Governor said it could take months to assess the full scope of the damage from the fires.
“This is the entire state coming together to assist our family on Maui,” she said Wednesday.
“We never anticipated a hurricane that did not make impact would cause this type of wildfires. Wildfires that wiped out communities. Wildfires that wiped out businesses.”
The wildfire was widespread in Lahaina, a tourist town with a population of 12,000 on the northwestern tip of Maui.
Not many details were provided earlier by the mayor regarding the circumstances surrounding the number of deaths.
The mayor earlier said that several people are unaccounted for including people in vehicles who haven’t gone into a shelter.
Lahaina is a resort city and the main tourist destination on the island. It has been devastated by the fire as images show huge areas decimated.