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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4:15 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

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

From CNN Staff

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.

3:47 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Light rain and decreased wind forecast over parts of Maui and the Big Island on Friday

From CNN's Robert Shackelford

Brief rain showers may fall over parts of Maui and the Big Island on Friday and pick up more next week, according to forecasts.

The greatest chance of rain is on Maui's eastern side -- far from the western communities that have been hardest hit by the wildfires.

As firefighters in Maui make progress battling the fires -- which were fueled in part by strong winds associated with faraway Hurricane Dora -- winds are forecast to gradually decrease over the Hawaiian Islands on Friday, according to an update from the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

After decreasing throughout the day Friday, winds will remain moderate over the weekend and into next week, the weather service said.

3:43 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Lahaina fire death toll rises to 55, Maui officials say

From CNN's Michelle Watson  

In this photo provided by Tiffany Kidder Winn, burned-out cars sit after a wildfire raged through Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 9, 2023.
In this photo provided by Tiffany Kidder Winn, burned-out cars sit after a wildfire raged through Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 9, 2023. Tiffany Kidder Winn/AP

There are now 55 confirmed fatalities from the Lahaina fire, Maui County officials said in a news release Thursday night local time.

"As firefighting efforts continue, 2 additional fatalities have been confirmed today amid the active Lahaina fire. This brings the death toll to 55 people," the release said.   

The county said no other details are available at this time.  

3:07 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

In pictures: The deadly Maui wildfires

From CNN's Evelio Contreras

The once-idyllic town of Lahaina has been destroyed after wildfires swept through parts of Maui this week, killing dozens of people.

Officials have estimated hundreds of buildings and structures have been impacted as search and rescue efforts continue.

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

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

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

Burned cars sit after wildfires raged through Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023.
Burned cars sit after wildfires raged through Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023. Evelio Contreras/CNN

Additional photos of the devastation can be found here.

2:19 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

None of patients being treated for fire-related injuries are in ICU, hospital says

From CNN's Michelle Watson and Taylor Romine

Of the six patients being treated at the Maui Memorial Medical Center for fire-related injuries, none are in the ICU, Maui Health said in a release Thursday.  

"Maui Memorial Medical Center continues to treat burns, smoke inhalation, and other fire-related injuries as a result of the Maui fires since Tuesday night," Maui Health said.
"Injuries include burns, shortness of breath or inhalation issues, and other trauma-related injuries such as falls or abrasions sustained during evacuations." 

The patients include those from both Lahaina and upcountry Maui, the organization said, and other patients "have been transferred to Oahu for specialty services, including fire-related injuries."

Wade Ebersole, chief operating officer for Maui Health, said the hospital is working with "ample capacity," according to the release.  

“We need the community to know that they should not hesitate to seek care; we are ready and able to provide all the care our community needs," Ebersole said. 
3:00 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Emergency loans will be available for farmers reeling from the aftermath of fires, winds

From CNN's Michelle Watson

A Maui County Fire Department truck puts out remaining flames in Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023.
A Maui County Fire Department truck puts out remaining flames in Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 10, 2023. Evelio Contreras/CNN

After whipping winds and wildfires tore through swaths of Maui and Hawaii's Big Island this week, the state plans to establish an emergency loan program for farmers and ranchers who suffered property damage, Hawaii's Department of Agriculture announced.

The department will propose loan parameters to the state Board of Agriculture later this month, it said in a news release Thursday.  

“While damage estimates may take some time to fully assess, we urge agricultural operations impacted by the wildfires to contact us now if they believe they may need financial assistance,” Sharon Hurd, chairperson of the Board, said in a statement.

State agriculture officials are also in contact with the US Farm Service Agency to secure more disaster-related federal assistance, Hurd said.

11:40 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Massachusetts woman says she has not heard from mother-in-law whose Maui apartment was destroyed by wildfires

From CNN’s Amanda Jackson 

Beth McCleod, who resides in Rochester, Massachusetts, told CNN affiliate WFXT, that her mother-in-law, Linda Vaikeli, has not been heard from since wildfires spread through Lahaina.

Linda Vaikeli, Beth McCleod's mother-in-law.
Linda Vaikeli, Beth McCleod's mother-in-law. Courtesy of Beth McCleod/WFXT

McCleod said that Vaikeli’s husband had a doctor’s appointment on the other side of the island and when he tried to return home, streets were closed due to the fire overtaking the area. 

“She has some health issues, and she doesn’t get around very well. She needs some assistance. I just hope someone was able to get to her and help her to evacuate,” McCleod told WFXT. “They are looking but we have not heard anything yet. And from what I’ve seen, it looks like their apartment complex is completely gone.”
11:39 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Grandfather sent photo of wildfire to family as he evacuated area — they haven’t heard from him since

From CNN’s Sara Smart

Brittany Talley said she last heard from her grandfather, Timm “TK” Williams Sr., on Wednesday afternoon as he was evacuating the area of Kaanapali, Hawaii.
Brittany Talley said she last heard from her grandfather, Timm “TK” Williams Sr., on Wednesday afternoon as he was evacuating the area of Kaanapali, Hawaii. Courtesy of Brittany Talley

A 66-year-old man sent a photo of the wildfire raging on in Maui to his family as he was evacuating the area on Wednesday.

They haven’t heard from him since.

Brittany Talley told CNN that she and her family are waiting to hear back from her grandfather, Timm “TK” Williams Sr., who they last heard from on Wednesday afternoon as he was evacuating the area of Kaanapali.

Williams shared a photo with the family as he was driving away from the area, but he was unable to tell exactly where he was as there was too much smoke.

This is the last photo that Timm “TK” Williams Sr. sent to his family, according to his granddaughter, Brittany Talley.
This is the last photo that Timm “TK” Williams Sr. sent to his family, according to his granddaughter, Brittany Talley. Courtesy Brittany Talley/Timm “TK” Williams Sr.

“He was attempting to make it to a shelter, but all of the roads were blocked,” Talley said.

Williams is a disabled veteran who uses both a wheelchair and forearm crutches, according to Talley. “He would not be able to run or move quickly if needed to,” she said.

Talley says they are continuing to exhaust all options in contacting him and praying for his return.

“It has been difficult. Every minute that goes by, is another minute that he could be hurt (or) in danger,” Talley said.
10:49 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

"Climate change is here and it’s affecting the islands," Hawaii governor says

From CNN's Travis Caldwell

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green spoke Thursday on the impact of climate change in the state and how its government and residents can respond in the future.

“We’ve never experienced a wildfire that affected a city like this before,” Green said at Thursday night's news conference, mentioning the state has been impacted by wildfires previously but largely in open spaces.

It was a “shock,” he said, to see the effects of Hurricane Dora — in particular, the trade winds that blow across Hawaii — affect the state in such a manner from hundreds of miles away.

“I think we’re seeing this in many different parts of the world, fires from California to Colorado,” Green said, noting he has been contacted by “several governors” on the impact of the wildfires and shared their experiences.

"It is difficult now in a time where global warming is combined with strengthening storms and drought," he said, and vowed that the state would do whatever it could in its power to better anticipate such disasters.

“I do think that as we rebuild, we’ll have to take into consideration a lot more fire safety,” Green said.

The state is short on supplies and equipment, including helicopters and personnel, he said, including the difficulties of ensuring firefighters and police are paid adequately.

“But this is going to be a priority," Green said. "Climate change is here and it’s affecting the islands, and I think that’s what we’re seeing with this fire.”