Deadliest US wildfires in a century claim 93 lives in Hawaii


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At least 93 people have died in wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui, as authorities battle to control what has become the US’s deadliest wildfire outbreak in more than a century.

Firefighters had contained one fire near southern Kihei in the island’s south-west, but continued to fight blazes in western Maui and inland, the Maui county government said in a statement published on Saturday.

The fires began on Tuesday, engulfing the historical town of Lahaina as it was fanned by strong winds from Hurricane Dora, which passed hundreds of miles south of Hawaii, a popular tourist destination.

Hawaii governor Josh Green said in a press conference on Saturday that the death toll was likely to continue to rise.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) and Pacific Disaster Center estimated that the fires had caused damage worth about $5.5bn, as the flames destroyed or damaged more than 2,200 structures in Lahaina in the west of the island.

The fires affected mostly residential buildings, and as many as 4,500 people could be in need of shelter as a result of the flames, which burnt 2,170 acres of land, the two agencies said.

US president Joe Biden earlier this week declared a major disaster and ordered federal aid to support local and state efforts in the affected areas. More than 200 Fema personnel were deployed in Hawaii as of Saturday.

Green said officials would review policies to improve safety in the future. “The world has changed. A storm now can be a hurricane-fire or a fire-hurricane,” Green said. “That’s what we experienced. That’s why we’re looking into these policies, to find out how we can best protect our people.”

He added that the fires were “the largest natural disaster we’ve ever experienced . . . It’s also going to be a natural disaster that takes an incredible amount of time to recover from”.

The fire has also caused mobile phone and power outages, and is expected to hurt Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy as people who had planned to visit reconsider their trips. The tourism authority there has advised visitors on non-essential trips to leave Maui.

The fires in Hawaii, which were worsened by dry conditions, broke out as authorities confirmed that July was the hottest month ever recorded globally. Rising temperatures have been causing droughts and contributing to wildfires in many countries.

The Hawaii fires are the deadliest since the Cloquet wildfire in Minnesota and Wisconsin killed 453 people in 1918, US media reported.

The northern hemisphere has undergone an unusually active wildfire season, with blazes in Canada burning for almost four months and destroying about 13mn hectares of boreal forest. Earlier this summer, smoke from the Canadian wildfires drifted to New York and other US cities, leading to a sharp deterioration in air quality.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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