Maui wildfires death toll climbs to 55, officials say

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury, Elizabeth Wolfe and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 7:29 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023
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11:34 a.m. ET, August 10, 2023

More than 50 people who fled flames by running into ocean were rescued by Coast Guard

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

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.

9:25 a.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Drought worsening in Hawaii, new data shows

From CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar

Drought worsened in Hawaii over the past week, leading to fire spread according to the latest US drought monitor released Thursday morning.

Drier-than-normal conditions have led to an increase in drought levels across Hawaii. Statewide moderate drought levels have increased from 6% to 14% since last week.

Maui County has experienced a significant uptick in severe level drought conditions — from 5% last week to 16% this week.

This map shows areas that are abnormally dry or in drought conditions:

12:59 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

At least 36 dead as devastating wildfires sweep across Maui. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames along Wainee Street on Tuesday, August 8, in Lahaina, Maui County, Hawaii. 
The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames along Wainee Street on Tuesday, August 8, in Lahaina, Maui County, Hawaii.  Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via AP

At least 36 people have been killed in Maui County as wildfires sweep across parts of the island, county officials said late Wednesday.

If you're just joining us, catch up on the latest from Hawaii here:

  • Among the most devastated areas: Much of the western Maui community of Lahaina, where about 12,000 people live, is destroyed and hundreds of families there have been displaced, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said. More than 270 structures have been impacted in Lahaina, county officials said. In addition to the homes and businesses that were wiped out, the toll on historical and cultural sites in Lahaina has been devastating, a CNN analysis of new Maxar Technologies satellite imagery shows. The images, taken at 11:03 a.m. local time Wednesday, show that one of the largest banyan trees in the US – the size of an entire city block and more than 60 feet high – has been burnt. It was imported from India in 1873, Hawaii’s Tourism Authority says.
  • Some are unaccounted for: Three helicopters from the US Coast Guard and US Navy were used in search and rescue efforts along the west Maui coastline, and a federal team arrived Wednesday to help search efforts in the Lahaina area, officials said.
  • Cell service out for thousands in Maui: It could take days or even weeks to fix networks. Officials have been using satellite phones to communicate with providers on the west side of Maui to restore power to the area, Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke said. Emergency and evacuation response efforts have been hampered by widespread cell service outages, which have prevented people from calling 911 or updating loved ones about their status, according to authorities. 
  • Power outages: More than 11,000 customers on Maui were without power as of 11 p.m. Wednesday local time (5 a.m. ET Thursday), according to PowerOutage.us, accounting for about 15% of the island’s customers. Power crews are working to repair downed lines and additional crews are being deployed from Oahu, Hawaiian Electric said in a news release.
  • Many in shelters: More than 2,100 people were in four emergency shelters in Maui on Tuesday night, the mayor’s office said. While there’s enough shelter for an emergency response for a few days, “there’s not enough shelter for long term living,” the governor told CNN.

  • Visitors urged to leave: Maui County officials are asking visitors to leave Lahaina and Maui as soon as possible, noting seats were available on outgoing flights. More than 11,000 people were flown out of Maui on Wednesday, according to Hawaii Department of Transportation director Ed Sniffen. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green strongly discouraged nonessential travel to Maui, but a tourism official of the island state emphasized that other parts of Hawaii, such as Oahu and Waikiki are still open and have occupancy.
  • Hospitals overwhelmed: Hospitals on Maui were overwhelmed with burn patients and people suffering from smoke inhalation, Luke told CNN Wednesday. Some patients should be taken elsewhere because Maui hospitals aren’t equipped for extensive burn treatment, but transportation challenges have made that difficult, Luke said.
  • Here's how you can help Hawaii wildfire victims: Click here to support relief efforts. Impact Your World will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates with more ways to help. 
9:06 a.m. ET, August 10, 2023

White House is "working very closely with Hawaii" but won't comment on disaster declaration

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal and Priscilla Alvarez

 

View of The White House in Washington DC on October 20, 2022.
View of The White House in Washington DC on October 20, 2022. Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The White House is "working very closely with Hawaii" as the state struggles with devastating wildfires that have left dozens dead Thursday, according to National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications Jon Kirby.

However, he came short of announcing the approval of an emergency declaration. 

A White House official told CNN that Hawaii has asked for shelter supplies from FEMA, including water, food, cots, and blankets. FEMA Region 9 Administrator Bob Fenton and his team are in Oahu, and he has mobilized an Incident Management Assistance Team to help with the federal response, the official added.

President Joe Biden is "treating this with all the due gravity and the seriousness that the climate crisis deserves," Kirby said.

Biden, in his statement earlier, had said he has ordered federal assets to assist with wildfire response, pointing to the Hawaiian National Guard that's mobilizing Chinook helicopters “to help with fire suppression and search and rescue on the Island of Maui” as well as response and rescue from the US Coast Guard and Navy fleets. Marines, he added, “are providing Black Hawk Helicopters to fight the fires on the Big Island.”

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said earlier Wednesday he expects to submit a request for a presidential disaster declaration “in the next 36 to 48 hours.” Green said the White House “has been incredibly supportive.”

7:50 a.m. ET, August 10, 2023

These areas are still affected by the Maui wildfires

Wildfires continue to burn the island of Maui, destroying homes, businesses and historic buildings. Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing as more than 11,000 customers remain without power.

Here's a map of the impacted areas:

11:46 a.m. ET, August 10, 2023

This Maui resident lost his home in the wildfires and is still looking for his family members

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Dustin Kaleiopu appears on CNN on Wednesday, August 9.
Dustin Kaleiopu appears on CNN on Wednesday, August 9. CNN

Maui resident Dustin Kaleiopu, who evacuated due to the wildfires, said Thursday that he has lost his home.

"I can say everything in Lahaina is gone," he told CNN, adding that the aerial footage of how his hometown had transformed overnight was "devastating to see."

"Everyone that I know and love, everyone that I'm related to, that I communicate with, my colleagues, friends, family — we're all homeless," he said.

Kaleiopu said he and his grandfather met up with his brother and mother after evacuating to the other side of the island.

"That is when we learned that our house was gone. My mom's house was gone. My brother's house was gone. Everything was set ablaze," he said.

Kaleiopu said he has not been able to establish contact with a lot of his family members.

"I have extended family, my grandmother, my uncle, my friends, family members that we're looking for," he said. "So many people have gone missing. I will say that that is an unspoken fact that the death toll is way higher than 36. And we just hope that it is not confirmed to be, like I said, too much higher than that number. But there was a mass casualty event that happened this week," he said.

6:39 a.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Oahu is still open to tourists, Hawaii tourism official says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

While travelers are scrambling to leave or reschedule their plans affected by the devastating wildfires in some Hawaiian Islands, especially Maui, a tourism official says that other parts of the island state are still open.

"It is west Maui that is devastated. What travelers are doing now that we're understanding is they are changing their vacation plans. They're going to Oahu. They're going to Hawaii Island," James Kunane Tokioka, the state’s business, economic development and tourism director, told CNN.

The entire state of Hawaii is not closed, he added, saying places like Oahu and Waikiki are still open "and there is occupancy."

"We have shared with our hotel partners to make sure that we give them the best rates available. We're trying to accommodate people. Some people have saved their whole life to come to Hawaii and it would be a shame if they had to go straight back to their homes on the mainland," he added.

Tokioka advised those planning to travel to Maui to contact their airlines and change their plans, reiterating that airlines are not charging any fees for the changes.

6:23 a.m. ET, August 10, 2023

In photos: See devastating scenes of wildfires raging across Maui

From CNN Digital’s Photo team

Wildfires continue to burn the island of Maui, destroying homes, businesses and historic buildings.

Here's a look at some scenes in Maui:

Smoke and flames rise in Lahaina, Maui County, Hawaii, on August 8, 2023 in this still image from video obtained from social media.
Smoke and flames rise in Lahaina, Maui County, Hawaii, on August 8, 2023 in this still image from video obtained from social media. Jeff Melichar/TMX/Reuters

Smoke blows across the slope of Haleakala volcano on Maui, Hawaii, as a fire burns in Maui's upcountry region on August 8.
Smoke blows across the slope of Haleakala volcano on Maui, Hawaii, as a fire burns in Maui's upcountry region on August 8. Matthew Thayer/The Maui News/AP

An aerial view shows damage along the coast of Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, on August 9 in this screen grab obtained from social media video.
An aerial view shows damage along the coast of Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, on August 9 in this screen grab obtained from social media video. Richard Olsten/Air Maui Helicopters/Reuters

Clint Hansen took drone video at 11:30 pm on August 8 that shows wildfires spreading across just north of Kihei.
Clint Hansen took drone video at 11:30 pm on August 8 that shows wildfires spreading across just north of Kihei. Clint Hansen/Maui Real Estate Radio

People gather while waiting for flights at the Kahului Airport in Kahului, Hawaii on August 9.
People gather while waiting for flights at the Kahului Airport in Kahului, Hawaii on August 9. Rick Bowmer/AP
Members of a Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources wildland firefighting crew on Maui battle a fire in Kula, Hawaii on August 8.
Members of a Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources wildland firefighting crew on Maui battle a fire in Kula, Hawaii on August 8. Matthew Thayer/The Maui News/AP

12:59 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Here's how to help wildfire victims in Hawaii

CNN Impact Your World

Devastating, fast-moving wildfires burn out of control across Hawaii's Big Island and Maui, destroying homes and historic buildings, including the popular Maui tourist destination Lahaina town.

Maui hospitals are overwhelmed with patients suffering burns and smoke inhalation. Thousands have evacuated or been displaced. Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing, but local officials warn that the death toll could rise as more information becomes available.

Click here to support relief efforts. Impact Your World will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates with more ways to help.