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
45 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
7:23 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

More than 14,000 people relocated from Maui, state agency says

From CNN’s Sara Smart

Residents carry their belongings in suitcases on Thursday, August 10, after wildfires swept through Lahaina on Wednesday.
Residents carry their belongings in suitcases on Thursday, August 10, after wildfires swept through Lahaina on Wednesday. Kuëu Kauanoe/Civil Beat/ZUMA Press

More than 14,000 people were moved off the island of Maui on Wednesday amid raging wildfires, with additional individuals still being moved today.

An additional 14,500 people are expected to be moved off by the end of the day Thursday, according to a news release from the Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

The relocated individuals were either sent elsewhere in Hawai’i to finish their vacation or were sent back home, the release says.

7:41 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Lahaina resident had to abandon his car and run toward the ocean as wildfires closed in

From CNN’s Jillian Sykes

Steven Potter was among those stuck near Front Street as fire surrounded him and trapped his vehicle.
Steven Potter was among those stuck near Front Street as fire surrounded him and trapped his vehicle. Courtesy Steven Potter

Steven Potter was trapped in his car near Front Street in the Maui town of Lahaina as the wildfires closed in on Tuesday.

“You had to get out of your car and run for your life,” Potter told CNN. “People fled toward the water. We ended up waiting down on the rocks for eight hours until firefighters came to rescue us.”

Despite covering his face with a wet shirt, Potter still breathed in a heavy amount of smoke. “I was coughing up black,” he said. 

Potter said he saw cars exploding around him and suffered a burn above one of his eyes.

He was eventually evaluated by a doctor and is feeling better, but still shaken up after the close call.

“I was starting a new life for my family. I had a rental property starting next month and a car, but both burned away in the fire.”

Potter has a flight back home to Oregon to be reunited with his wife and five children on Saturday. 

“Our move to Hawaii will be postponed for quite some time.”

Caroll Alvarado contributed reporting.

7:10 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Number of people killed in Hawaii fires expected to rise, governor says

The number of people killed by wildfires in Hawaii is set to climb, the governor said Thursday.

"You'll see the number go into the forties today, at the least," Gov. Josh Green told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Late Wednesday, officials gave a confirmed death toll of 36 from the devastating wildfires on Maui.

Green is set to hold a news conference with Maui Mayor Richard Bissen later today when officials are expected to provide the latest toll.

"In 1960, we had 61 fatalities, when a large wave came through the island. This time, it's very likely that our death totals will significantly exceed that, I'm afraid," Green told CNN, referring to a tsunami.

As many as 1,700 buildings were probably destroyed in the fire, the governor said, adding that it looked like “about 80% of Lahaina is gone."

"I'll tell you, by the time this disaster is all described, I'm sure there will be dozens of people that lost their lives and billions of dollars of property that was destroyed," Green said.

The governor said most buildings are completely flattened, some of them still smoldering. Only some stone buildings are still standing, Green said.

“We also are only now getting some of our search and rescue personnel into other houses,” Green said, adding that helicopters are also surveying the area.

6:15 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Pro-golfer Collin Morikawa pledges donation per birdie made to Hawaii relief efforts

From CNN's Jacob Lev

Collin Morikawa  plays his shot from the seventh tee during the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship on Thursday, August 10, in Memphis, Tennessee.
Collin Morikawa plays his shot from the seventh tee during the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship on Thursday, August 10, in Memphis, Tennessee. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

US golfer Collin Morikawa, a two-time majors winner, has pledged $1,000 for every birdie he makes during the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs to Hawaii relief efforts.

Morikawa, who has family ties to Maui, announced the pledge before the first event in the playoffs, the St. Jude Classic, which teed off Thursday at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.

"Maui has always held a special place in my heart – my grandfather owned a restaurant called The Morikawa Restaurant, on Front Street in Lahaina,” Morikawa wrote in an Instagram post.
"The people of Hawaii are going to need all the support that we can give them. During the course of the playoffs, I’m going to donate $1,000 for every birdie that I make."
"The recency of these events means we haven’t identified the best place for the funds to go yet but as the situation evolves, I’ll share the beneficiary to highlight the recovery work they’ll be doing and how you can also support," Morikawa added.

The 26-year-old is currently tied for third on the leaderboard at 5-under par. Morikawa has previously won the 2020 PGA Championship and the 2021 Open Championship.

5:59 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

"We were able to save those kids." Boat captain recalls devastating scenes in waters off Lahaina

From CNN’s Macie Goldfarb

Emma Nelson recorded video from a boat offshore showing structureson land and boats in the water on fire as Lahaina burned Tuesday night.
Emma Nelson recorded video from a boat offshore showing structureson land and boats in the water on fire as Lahaina burned Tuesday night. Courtesy Emma Nelson

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.

6:27 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Lahaina fire is 80% contained, but tens of thousands of people are still without power in Maui

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

The wildfire that devastated the Lahaina section of Maui is now 80% contained, the county said Thursday.

More than 1,300 residents and tourists stayed in emergency shelters overnight before many of them were taken to the airport to leave the island, the statement said. About another 1,400 people slept at the airport Wednesday night.

Lahaina remains without power with nearly 11,000 people in Maui without electricity, according to PowerOutage.Us. State and county crews are working to clear roads, but entry into Lahaina remains restricted.

Firefighters battling the other two major wildfires on Maui are also making progress in securing the perimeters, Maui County said. 

The Pulehu fire in Kihei is 70% contained and firefighters are still determining the containment of the Upcountry fire in the center of the island, where state forestry workers are leading the effort on the northern slopes of Haleakala. On the other side of the Upcountry fire, flames are most active in gulches that are difficult to access.

5:24 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Hawaii governor tours wildfire-scorched Lahaina

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green traveled to the heavily-damaged western Maui community of Lahaina on Thursday.

Officials at the state Emergency Management Agency in Honolulu did not have further details on Green's movements Thursday morning because of poor communications in the emergency area.

Maui Police are limiting entrance to Lahaina to emergency workers, including National Guard members and rescue personnel.

Green and Maui Mayor Richard Bissen are scheduled to hold a news conference in Wailuku – the county seat of Maui – at 3:30 p.m. HST (9:30 p.m. ET)

5:23 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

"It looked like it was raining fire": Lahaina resident tried to battle fires to save his apartment

From CNN’s Jillian Sykes

Bosco JR Bae  shared a video of the fire as it hit Lahain's Front Street.
Bosco JR Bae shared a video of the fire as it hit Lahain's Front Street. CNN

Bosco JR Bae is new to Hawaii, but he still risked his life trying to save his Lahaina apartment building from the raging fires that erupted on Tuesday. 

The Air Force veteran used his survival skills, covering his face with a wet towel and grabbing a water hose to stop the spread as much as possible. 

“Everything was on fire,” he told CNN. “At one point I had to stay on the ground to wait for the thick smoke to clear.”

Bae and a friend battled the fires for a couple of hours before it became too much to handle.

“The wind was blowing embers so far it looked like it was raining fire,” he said.

It was too late to grab any possessions when they eventually evacuated the area around 8 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

“It seemed like we were the last two people to leave. There wasn’t another person in sight,” Bae said, recalling the abandoned cars and downed powerlines as they fled Front Street — something he called "apocalyptic looking.”

A friend in the area told Bae on Thursday that as of now, the apartment building is still standing. However, the Harte International Gallery, where Bae is employed, is burned to the ground.

"One-of-a-kind pieces of art that will never be seen again,” Bae said.

Bae said he is waiting to find out when the roads will open again so he can go back to the apartment and dig through the ashes of what’s left of his home.

5:15 p.m. ET, August 10, 2023

Legendary Lahaina banyan tree damaged as decades of rich history up in flames in Maui

From CNN's Alisha Ebrahimji

An aerial view shows the historic Banyan Tree along with destroyed homes, boats, and buildings burned to the ground on August 10.
An aerial view shows the historic Banyan Tree along with destroyed homes, boats, and buildings burned to the ground on August 10. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

The disastrous wildfires in Maui have ransacked virtually every aspect of life, killing at least three dozen people while scorching or imperiling buildings important to Hawaiian history, as well as a majestic tree known as a symbol of the island’s culture.

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

Keep reading