Maui County officials confirmed late Wednesday that 36 people have died as a massive wildfire tore through a significant portion of the resort Hawaiian town of Lahaina.
The discovery came after a federal team arrived on Wednesday to assist with search and rescue efforts.
As of Wednesday evening, 271 structures had been impacted, and officials reported “widespread damage” in Lahaina and surrounding areas.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town has a population of 12,702 residents. Officials said that 11,000 people were flown out of the area on Wednesday.
“Tragedy that hits one of us is felt by all of us,” said Maui County Mayor Richard Missen. “These past few days, the resolve of our families, businesses and visitors have been tested like never before in our lifetime with lives lost and properties decimated. We are grieving with each other during this inconsolable time. We are truly grateful for our first responders and emergency personnel whose own families and friends have been affected by the Lahaina and upcountry fires.”
Officials have opened four shelters in nearby towns for residents. Lahaina remained closed as of early Thursday as firefighters continued to put out hotspots.
The county said the Hawaii Community Foundation started a Maui Strong Fundto support residents impacted by the fire.
The wildfires were fueled by gusty winds as Hurricane Dora passed to the south of Hawaii. The National Weather Service measured a wind gust of 67 mph in Maui County early Wednesday.
The winds are expected to subside on Thursday.
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