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“It was like a war zone,” one local recalls.
At least 36 people have died and 30 have been injured in wildfires that have ravaged the historic town of Lahaina in Hawaii, local authorities have said.
Officials warned that the death toll in could rise, with the fires still burning and teams spreading out to search charred areas at first light.
“We barely made it out,” the Lahaina resident Kamuela Kawaakoa said at an evacuation shelter on Wednesday. “It was so hard to sit there and just watch my town burn to ashes and not be able to do anything,” Kawaakoa, 34, told the Associated Press.
As fire engulfed the town of 13,000 residents on Tuesday, some adults and children were driven to dive into the ocean for safety. The US Coast Guard said it rescued 14 people who jumped into the water to escape flames and smoke, including two children.
Three fires remain active on the island, in Lahaina, Pulehu, and Upcountry, Maui County said in a statement at 10:30 p.m. local time.
The Maui fire department reported “no significant changes” on the three fires, and there are no new evacuations. Nor were containment estimates were available.