The US Coast Guard said it rescued 17 survivors and assisted in recovering 40 others off the shore of Lahaina as wildfires have spread in Maui since Tuesday.
"On Tuesday night, as the Lahaina brush fire really rapidly spread west and engulfed the downtown Lahaina area, the Coast Guard began receiving reports of people who had to flee the flames and the smoke all the way down to shore line and ultimately into the water off of Lahaina," according to Capt. Aja Kirksey, commander of the Honolulu sector of the US Coast Guard.
"Initial reports of people in the water were around a hundred," she told CNN.
CNN on Wednesday reported that the wildfires had spurred some people to jump into the ocean to escape the danger.
The 17 people rescued by the guard were taken to Coast Guard Station Maui, while the 40 others were taken to a nearby location for further evacuation, Kirksey said.
Hazardous conditions also posed major challenges for what Kirksey called the "mass rescue operation."
Helicopters were "unable to make water approaches due to the extremely low visibility that they were encountering," Kirksey said, adding that boats were able to get to uninjured survivors.
The Coast Guard also received "some support from several good Samaritans in that area," she said.
The search-and-rescue response remains the top priority for the Coast Guard, Kirksey said, noting that while there have been no additional reports, she has instructed her teams to operate as though there are still potential survivors in need of assistance or victims that need to be recovered.