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.