Washington, Aug 10 (EFE).- At least 36 people have died and thousands were being evacuated on Thursday as hurricane-boosted wildfires raged across the Hawaiian island of Maui, the local authorities said.
“As the firefighting efforts continue, 36 total fatalities have been discovered amid the active Lahaina fire,” a press release from the Maui county said. “No other details are available at this time.”
However, the statement did not clarify if the 36 dead included the six fatalities that the authorities reported on Wednesday due to the fast-moving devastating fires, which have caused the displacement of thousands of people.
The authorities have asked residents and visitors to leave the affected areas immediately.
“Due to limited resources in this time of crisis, visitors with vehicles or any means of transportation are being asked to leave Lahaina and Maui as soon as possible,” the county administration said.
The raging fires have affected several Hawaiian islands but Maui has suffered the worst damage, from where 11,000 people were evacuated on Wednesday.
According to CNN, at least another 1,500 were expected to leave the island on Thursday.
Airlines have arranging new flights out of Maui and offered low-priced tickets to encourage people to leave.
According to the authorities, severe drought and strong winds from Hurricane Dora have caused the flames to spread much faster.
General Kenneth Hara, deputy head of the National Guard in Hawaii, said the winds had dousing of flames very difficult.
“Firefighting crews were continuing to battle a fire that burned multiple structures and brush in Lahaina, with four helicopters launched to assist in the firefighting efforts,” another statement from the county said.
Close to 100 firefighters have been on duty, including 11 from state airport firefighting and rescue personnel.
Hawaii Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke signed two emergency declarations to activate the Hawaii National Guard and discourage all non-essential air travel to Maui.
“This is an unprecedented disaster as an indirect result of Hurricane Dora passing just south of our islands. It is truly devastating, and my heart goes out to the residents of Maui and all those impacted,” Luke wrote.
“This proclamation is to discourage travel to the affected areas so we can prioritize our scarce resources for Maui’s residents who desperately need it.”
Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen earlier reported that six people had died due to the wildfires.
The largest fire whipped through the historic town of Lahaina, a popular tourist destination, forcing many inhabitants to flee into the ocean to escape the flames and smoke.
They were later rescued by National Guard troops.
The wildfires also are affecting Kula, a mountainous residential area of Maui, as well as the Kohala peninsula of the state’s Big Island, also known as Hawaii island.
As part of Tuesday’s declaration, Luke said the disaster emergency relief period would continue through Aug.15. EFE