(Worthy News) – At least 36 people have died after wildfires, fanned by winds from a faraway hurricane, devastated much of the resort city Lahaina on Hawaii’s Maui island, Maui County said in a statement late on Wednesday. Multiple neighborhoods were burnt to the ground as the western side of the island was nearly cut off, with only one highway open and thousands needing to evacuate. Officials reported widespread devastation to Lahaina, its harbor and surrounding areas as some people fled into the ocean to escape the smoke and flames.
Aerial video showed pillars of smoke rising from block after block of Lahaina, the largest tourist destination on Maui and home to multiple large hotels. “It’s like an area was bombed. It’s like a war zone,” said helicopter pilot Richard Olsten, according to Hawaii News Now. With firefighters battling three major blazes, western Maui was closed to all but emergency workers and evacuees.
Some 271 structures were damaged or destroyed, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported, citing official reports from flyovers conducted by the U.S. Civil Air Patrol and the Maui Fire Department.