August 11, 2023 Maui wildfire news

By Aditi Sangal, Tori B. Powell, Matt Meyer, Elise Hammond, Chris Lau and Andrew Raine, CNN

Updated 7:54 p.m. ET, August 12, 2023
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6:05 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Maui County will air public updates on Maui radio stations Friday  

From CNN's Michelle Watson  

 

Maui County, Hawaii, will provide updates on the aftermath of wildfires in the area via radio stations on Friday starting 9 a.m. HST (3 p.m. ET), the county said in an update on Facebook

"Radio updates will supplement information posted on the county’s website, Facebook and Instagram pages," the post added.

The radio stations where updates will be provided are as follows, according to the release: 

  • Pacific Media Group on KPOA FM 92.9 (west side) / FM 93.5; KJKS FM 99.3 (west side) / FM 99.9 FM; KJMD FM 107.1 (west side) / FM 98.3; KHLI FM 101.7 (west side) / FM 92.5; KMVI AM 900 / FM 102.5; and KNUI AM 550 / FM 106.1 
  • KAOI Radio Group on 1110 AM / 96.7 FM 
  • KPMW FM 105.5 
  • Akaku’s KAKU 88.5 

6:10 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

How to know your donation is going to a legitimate charity that will help Maui

From CNN's Samantha Delouya

A waterfront view of buildings destroyed by the wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023.
A waterfront view of buildings destroyed by the wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023. Evelio Contreras/CNN

Ravaging wildfires have caused widespread devastation in Maui — dozens of people have been killed, homes and businesses have been wiped out, and nearly 11,000 customers are grappling with power outages. The extent of the damage isn’t fully known. Rebuilding the island will likely take months or even years.

CNN Impact Your World is raising money to support relief efforts. Click here to help.

If you’re looking to donate money to help those affected by the wildfires in Hawaii — or looking to support any charitable cause close to your heart — here are some tips so you can ensure your money is going to the right place:

  • Several sites help people find and support legitimate charities, including Charity NavigatorBBB Wise Giving Alliance, and CharityWatch.
  • After finding a legitimate charity, dig deeper and check out the website. Read its “About” page. It might be best to research alternatives if the charity’s website does not make clear its mission or who it serves.
  • The US Federal Trade Commission suggests when conducting an online search of any charity, you should add the words “complaint,” “review,” “fraud,” or “scam” to the search terms. Doing this should bring up any bad reviews or red flags about the organization.
  • When you feel confident about making your donation, it’s best to use a credit card or check, since those types of payments are easily traceable. Never donate with a wire transfer or gift card, which is difficult to track if something goes awry.
  • After contributing to a charity, review your bank account and credit card statements to ensure you’ve only been charged the agreed-upon amount.
  • When donating through a platform like GoFundMe, ActBlue, or WinRed, make sure to check whether the site is keeping some of your donation as a processing fee. There are countless social causes and crowdfunding campaigns on social media seeking donations — but be warned: occasionally, bad actors like scam artists and other fraudsters may take advantage of people’s kindness.

According to the FTC, there are some telltale signs that an organization soliciting donations isn’t legitimate. In general, be wary of callers soliciting contributions. While many legitimate organizations do call for donations, make sure you listen carefully to the name of the charity, write it down, and then research it before pledging a contribution, the FTC said.

Don’t let anyone rush you into donating on the phone on the spot; take time to do the proper research. Also, if an organization insists on a donation using cryptocurrency, another hard-to-track form of payment, that should set off alarm bells. Avoid sending funds from payment apps like Venmo or Zelle. Those apps should only be used to send money to people you know, since it’s difficult to recoup funds once someone receives them.

You can report charity scams directly to the FTC or your state charity regulator.

CNN's Scottie Andrew contributed reporting to this post.

8:47 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Maui is reeling from deadly and catastrophic wildfires. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

Destroyed homes and buildings on the waterfront are seen in Lahaina in western Maui, Hawaii, on Thursday.
Destroyed homes and buildings on the waterfront are seen in Lahaina in western Maui, Hawaii, on Thursday. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

The wildfires ripping through Maui will likely be the largest natural disaster the state of Hawaii has ever seen, Gov. Josh Green said Thursday, as the blazes have killed dozens, displaced thousands of others and wiped out communities. 

At least 55 people have died in the fires, though that number is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue across the island, officials said. 

None of the fires burning in Maui have been completely contained, officials said Thursday.

Here are the latest developments: 

  • Thousands still without power or means of communication: Nearly 11,000 people across Maui are without power late Thursday, according to PowerOutage.us. Crippling outages of vital cellular, internet and radio networks are also hindering emergency teams from contacting those who may need help, officials said. The outages are also preventing some from contacting their missing family members or providing loved ones updates on their status. It could take days or even weeks to fix networks, and officials are relying on satellite phones to communicate emergency information.
  • Number of people missing is unclear: Officials are still working to determine how many people are still unaccounted for across Maui, island police chief John Pelletier said Thursday, citing challenges in communicating without cellular or radio signals. A search and rescue team from California is headed to join crews from the US Coast Guard, Navy and other agencies, which already searching on the ground, by sea and by helicopter. 
  • Firefighters still working to rein in the infernos: The wildfire that tore through Lahaina was 80% contained as of late Thursday local time, Maui County officials said. Firefighters have also made progress battling two other major fires on the island. The Pulehu fire — located further east in Kihei — was 70% contained on Thursday and another fire in the hills of Maui's central Upcountry was still being assessed.

  • Historic Lahaina is “burnt to the ground": Maui's Lahaina Town – a tourism hub and historic whaling village – has been decimated. “None of it's there. It's all burnt to the ground," Mayor Richard Bissen said Thursday. Gov. Green estimated that about 80% of the community is destroyed. CNN's chief climate correspondent Bill Weir described the scene: "All the iconic buildings are either flattened or just scorched skeletons of their former self."
  • State scrambles to house thousands: "Many hundreds of homes" have been destroyed by fires, Green said, leaving Hawaiian officials to seek long-term housing for thousands of displaced residents. The state will begin by seeking 2,000 rooms for the unhoused, he said. Residents with spare rooms or rental properties have also been urged to volunteer to shelter those in need.
  • Approximately 30,000 people flown out of Maui: As officials have urged travelers to leave the island, more than 14,000 people were taken off the island Wednesday and an additional 14,500 were expected to be moved off by the end of the day Thursday, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Those individuals were either sent to other Hawaiian islands or were taken back home, it said.
  • Road to recovery will be lengthy and expensive: It will be several years before Maui is able to recover and rebuild following this week’s devastation -- and it will come at a high cost, Green said Thursday. "It will be in the billions of dollars, without a doubt," he said. President Joe Biden signed a disaster declaration on Thursday that will direct significant federal resources toward recovery in Maui and the Big Island. Some of Maui's scorched historical sites, however, can never be replaced.
  • How to help: Help is desperately needed for people displaced by the fires, and residents CNN interviewed Thursday urged viewers and readers to contribute if they can. You can support relief efforts here.
8:39 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Here are some of the sites damaged or lost when a wildfire raced through historic Lahaina town

From CNN's Alisha Ebrahimji

An aerial view shows the historic Banyan Tree along with destroyed homes, boats, and buildings burned to the ground in the historic Lahaina town in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui in Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023.
An aerial view shows the historic Banyan Tree along with destroyed homes, boats, and buildings burned to the ground in the historic Lahaina town in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui in Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

Much of the western Maui community of Lahaina, home to about 12,000, has been destroyed, displacing hundreds of families, according to Hawaii Gov. Josh Green.

More than 270 structures have been impacted in Lahaina, county officials added, many of them near one of the largest and most storied banyan trees in the United States.

A top tourist attraction, Lahaina once was the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, beloved by its kings and queens, as well as whaling ship crews and missionaries, according to the National Park Service. It’s been a National Historic Landmark for more than six decades.

With cell service down on the island and witness reports still coming in, here’s what we know so far about some of the important places affected by the wildfires:

  • The banyan tree: Imported from India and planted in front of the Lahaina Courthouse and Lahaina Harbor in 1873, the tree is one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Now, the fires have left little to no vegetation on the tree, satellite imagery and video on the Instagram account @lei_dubzz shows. The tree stretches an entire city block and is more than 60 feet tall, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
  • The Baldwin Home Museum: Just north of the tree, the Baldwin Home Museum — an 1830s-era house believed to be the oldest on Maui — has been reduced to ash, Lahaina Restoration Foundation Executive Director Theo Morrison confirmed to CNN on Wednesday. The original four-room, single-level structure was built in the 1830s with a direct view to the Lahaina landing, where whaling ships would anchor, according to the foundation.
  • Waiola Church: Songs of worship in English and Hawaiian echoed for decades through the Waiola Church before its walls were swallowed Tuesday by wildfire flames, a Maui News photo of the inferno shows. The church had just celebrated its 200th anniversary in May. Its graveyard is the final resting place of early members of the Kingdom of Hawaii’s royal family, according to the church’s website.

Historic landmarks impacted by Maui fires

Keep reading

5:31 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

"Anything in the town center here is completely devastated," CNN correspondent describes scene in Lahaina

Building wreckage is seen in the aftermath of the fires that raged through Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023.
Building wreckage is seen in the aftermath of the fires that raged through Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023. Evelio Contreras/CNN

"It looks like a bomb went off in Lahaina town," Bill Weir, CNN's chief climate correspondent, reported from the scorched Maui town on Thursday.

"All the iconic buildings are either flattened or just scorched skeletons of their former self," he said as he walked through the aftermath of a natural disaster that has claimed at least 53 lives, according to officials.

"Flames came so fast, entire structures went up in a matter of minutes," Weir said that people told him.

The scene reminded him of the deadly 2018 Paradise wildfires, the deadliest and most destructive in California's history.

Anything in the town center here is just completely devastated," Weir said as he walked toward Front Street. "The fire was so hot, it burned everything all the way to the ground."

There were emergency rescue and cleanup crews in the town.

Otherwise, Weir said, it was " just lifeless, smoky, and sooty devastation where Lahaina town used to be."

Some background: Lahaina Town is a historic whaling village and tourism center that was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Front Street has been ranked as one of the “Top Ten Greatest Streets” by the American Planning Association.

Earlier Thursday, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said as many as 1,700 buildings were probably destroyed in the fire and it looked like “about 80% of Lahaina is gone."

5:19 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Boat captain recounts harrowing rescue in the waters off Lahaina

From CNN’s Macie Goldfarb

Christina Lovitt, a boat captain on Maui, spends her time delivering food, medicine and other items to people on the neighboring island of Lanai, which doesn’t have the same resources as Maui, she told CNN on the phone Thursday.

But on Tuesday around sunset, as black smoke engulfed the sky around her, Lovitt watched as the boat she’d put “every penny” into burned on the water.

She, Lashawna Garnier and Lovitt’s wife, Emma Nelson, had been on a skiff, or a small, flat-bottomed boat, trying to help others get their own boats out of the harbor when a large wave flooded their motor, rendering it inoperable.

The consistent 70 to 80 mph wind gusts kept them from being able to anchor. Instead, they drifted and were eventually pulled onto a 120-foot boat Lovitt had actually captained in the past.

That boat had a generator, radio and water on board – but no food. Wind gusts had blown out the windows, so the women boarded them up with wood in an attempt to stall the smoke. That’s when the women, who are all captains, heard through the radio that the Coast Guard needed help finding survivors who’d had no choice but to jump into the ocean after being boxed out by flames.

When another passing boat lent them extra gas, the women were able to get back on the skiff and head out into the night to find survivors. They ended up rescuing a 5- and 6-year-old in the water and handing the children over to the Coast Guard.

“To see this beautiful thing I’ve spent my life on just disappear — it was just the most tragic thing,” Lovitt said of her boat that she watched burn in front of her eyes. “But we were able to save those kids.”

Through extremely low visibility due to the heavy smoke, the women searched for survivors until about 4 a.m. local time. They watched every boat in the harbor burn up and knew others were on the brink of explosion. Lovitt called the scene “toxic.”

“There were waves on fire,” she said.

After returning on the skiff to the larger boat, the women still hadn’t had food. The Coast Guard eventually found them and gave them popcorn. Another woman, who had been riding out the fires on her own boat, gave them their first real meal. 

At around 4:30 p.m. local time Wednesday, the women arrived at Kaanapali Beach after deciding they would travel seven miles north in their skiff to safety. There, they were able to come ashore and helped another boat unload humanitarian aid supplies. 

“We looked like refugees or something,” Lovitt said of the moment they finally returned to land. “It was like something out of a movie.”

CNN’s Caroll Alvarado contributed reporting.

5:35 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Biden makes disaster declaration to help ramp up federal relief for Hawaii

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Volunteers attend to evacuees from the West Maui wildfires at a shelter set up at the Maui War Memorial in Wailuku, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023.
Volunteers attend to evacuees from the West Maui wildfires at a shelter set up at the Maui War Memorial in Wailuku, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023. Marco Garcia/Reuters

President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration for Hawaii and “ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires,” according to the White House.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help with recovery from the fires.

“Our prayers are with the people of Hawaii, but not just our prayers, every asset we have will be available to them," Biden said at a veteran's event in Utah on Thursday. "They’ve seen their homes, their businesses destroyed and some have lost loved ones and it’s not over yet.”

He asserted that anyone who needs and is eligible for assistance will get help "immediately."

A White House official told CNN that Hawaii has also asked for shelter supplies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including water, food, cots and blankets. FEMA Region 9 Administrator Bob Fenton and his team are in Oahu, and he has deployed a specialized rapid-response team to help with federal relief efforts, the official added.