HONOLULU (KHON) — Strong winds continued to batter the Hawaiian Islands Wednesdays, fueling multiple brush fires on Maui.
Heartbreaking visuals show chaos on the island as many were forced to evacuate their homes due to the intensifying flames. Some were forced to flee to the relative safety of the ocean, where they were rescued by the Coast Guard.
The fire was widespread in Lahaina Town, including on Front Street, an area that is popular with tourists, County of Maui spokesperson Mahina Martin said by phone early Wednesday. Traffic has been very heavy as people try to evacuate, and officials asked people who weren’t in an evacuation area to shelter in place to avoid adding to the traffic, she said. Photos posted by the county overnight showed a line of flames blazing across an intersection in Lahaina and leaping above buildings in the town, whose historic district is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Do NOT go to Lahaina Town,” the county tweeted hours before all roads in and out of West Maui’s biggest community were closed to everyone except emergency personnel.
“Everyone who comes to Maui, the one place that everybody goes is Front Street,” said Alan Dickar, who wasn’t sure what remained of his Vintage European Posters gallery, which was a fixture on Front Street in Lahaina for 23 years. “The central two blocks is the economic heart of this island, and I don’t know what’s left.”
Officials were not aware of any deaths, Martin said. There’s no count available for the number of structures that have burned or the number of people who have evacuated, but Martin said there were four shelters open and that more than 1,000 people were at the largest.
“This is so unprecedented,” Martin said, noting that multiple districts were affected. An emergency in the night is terrifying, she said, and the darkness made it hard to gauge the extent of the damage.
For the latest information on evacuations, shelters and road closures from Nexstar’s KHON, click here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.