xi's moments
Home | Americas

Death toll in US Hawaii wildfire rises to 67

By MAY ZHOU | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-08-12 00:43

Hawaii foresees yearslong recovery

Maui's wildfires have killed at least 55 people, a toll which is expected to rise, and turned the Hawaii resort town of Lahaina into smoldering ruins that will take many years and billions of dollars to rebuild, officials said on Thursday.

Thousands of people will need immediate housing, Hawaii Governor Josh Green told a news conference, and he estimated that as many as 1,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed,

"It's going to take many years to rebuild Lahaina," Green said, as 80 percent of the town was gone.

Hawaii emergency management records show no indication that warning sirens were triggered before the devastating fires, officials confirmed.

The US state boasts what it describes as the largest integrated outdoor all-hazard public safety warning system in the world, with about 400 sirens stationed across the island chain.

However, many survivors said they didn't hear any sirens and only realized they were in danger when they saw flames or heard explosions nearby.

A video showed that many structures in Lahaina were burned to the ground along the coast and beyond. A voice in the video cried out: "Oh my god, I can't believe it. This is like a war zone."

The fast-moving inferno, which started on Tuesday, spread from the brush outside of the town and ravaged the historic town of Lahaina that was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Even as firefighters continue to put out smaller fires and search teams almost certainly have yet to recover all the dead, federal recovery dollars have started to flow along with an influx of supplies and equipment.

Vixay Phonxaylinkham, holds his child Lana, 4, as she overheats while they await their flight to California at Kahului Airport in Hawaii, on Thursday. Phonoxaylinkham, his wife, and their five children were caught in the wildfires in Lahaina and survived by exiting their car and spending four hours in the ocean. [Marco Garcia / Reuters]

Thousands of tourists and locals were evacuated from the western side of Maui, which has a year-round population of about 166,000, with some taking shelter on the island or on the neighboring island of Oahu. Tourists camped at Kahului Airport, waiting for flights back home.

Green said the scope of the disaster would surpass that of 1960, one year after Hawaii became a US state, when a tsunami killed 61 people on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Around 100 people fled the flames by jumping into the Pacific Ocean.

Among them was Vixay Phonxaylinkham, a tourist from Fresno, California, who said he was trapped in a rental car with his wife and children as the fires approached, forcing the family to abandon the car and take refuge in the water.

"We floated around four hours," he said from the airport while awaiting a flight off the island, describing how they held onto pieces of wood for flotation.

"It was a vacation that turned into a nightmare. I heard explosions everywhere, I heard screaming, and some people didn't make it. I feel so sad," he said.

|<< Previous 1 2   
Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349