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20 July, 2024
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Wildfire tears through Hawaiian town killing at least 6 people

Residents and tourists recount their harrowing experiences as a wildfire engulfs Lahaina, claiming lives and leaving destruction in its wake.


Evacuees from Lahaina are still processing what happened Tuesday night, sharing their stories of escape after a wildfire tore through the West Maui township and killed at least six people.

Hundreds of residents and tourists took shelter at Maui High School on Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday morning, among 2,100 seeking shelter across the island and the American Red Cross set up an evacuation center in the athletic complex.

Donations of food, water, toiletries and bedding have been rolling into the volunteer-run operation but tourists and residents are still processing what happened to the popular tourist destination overnight.

“It was like a war zone,” said Alan Barrios, who arrived at the shelter on Wednesday morning, black with ash. “There were explosions left and right.”

Barrios, a 53-year-old taxi driver, took shelter in his car in a parking lot in Lahaina after staying back to save his cats. He lost one in the process, along with his apartment and belongings.

He has lived in Lahaina for 20 years, he said.

“I lost everything. By now it’s ashes, nothing left,” Barrios said.

Unhoused Lahaina resident Aaron Abel says he took refuge in Lahaina’s nearshore waters, where a dozen were rescued Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, tourists have filled the airport in a bid to leave the island, creating long lines at Kahului Airport.

Michael Shan arrived in Kahului on Tuesday night from Seattle and went straight to Maui High School because of what was happening in Lahaina.

About 70% of those who stayed at the shelter were tourists, he estimated.

Authorities said that people evacuated to Oahu can be sheltered at the Honolulu Convention Center, which can hold around 4,000 people.

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