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Devastation in Maui Leaves 93 Dead

By: Andy Gao

Sefo Rosenthal, 37, and his family live in Lahaina, Hawaii, the town burned to the ground in recent wildfires that engulfed parts of Maui. Rosenthal and his family ran into the ocean, escaping a fiery grave while watching their historical town go up in flames.

This wildfire, caused by winds from Hurricane Dora, reached the town of Lahaina on August 8th. Since then, the fire has disrupted thousands of residents and tourists, becoming the deadliest wildfire in the United States last century.

Originally, the fire was 100 percent contained. However, by the afternoon, the fire had spread. The National Weather Service gave the warning of “high fire danger” due to the dry weather and strong winds.

State officials confirmed on Saturday that at least 93 people have died and about 1,000 more remain missing. Residents are concerned about the lack of communication and the failed alarm system.

Hawaii has a network of outdoor sirens, but officials decided not to activate them. Instead, they issued alerts through radio and television, cellular phones, and a local notification system. However, power and telecommunication outages due to the fire prevented their effectiveness.

An anonymous woman told The Los Angeles Times about her situation. She was home on Tuesday at her apartment building in Lahaina when they saw smoke from the wildfire. Her neighbors did not react to it as they did not receive any notifications. However, she decided to flee.

She got into her car but got caught in the fire. She abandoned her vehicle, and jumped into the ocean with many others, including Rosenthal. “Was there enough warning? I don’t think so,” Rosenthal said Friday as he stood beside his minivan packed with food and a generator. “If you have to jump into the water, that’s not enough warning.” (LA Times, 2023)

During this ordeal, many people were not so lucky. A friend Rosenthal knew since they “were little kids” died in her car with her son, Rosenthal said, adding after a long pause, “and her parents.” (LA Times, 2023)

Hawaii’s attorney general’s office has promised to investigate the policies and decisions that impacted the outcome of the deadly wildfire. “My Department is committed to understanding the decisions that were made before and during the wildfires and to sharing with the public the results of this review,” said Atty. Gen. Anne Lopez in a statement. “As we continue to support all aspects of the ongoing relief effort, now is the time to begin this process of understanding.” (LA Times, 2023)

The fight against the Maui wildfires remains ongoing. Firefighters continue to attempt to contain the blazes and extinguish the fire. Over 1,400 people are currently living in shelters, while up to 4,500 more people will need shelter.

Most people living in shelters cannot return to Lahaina as the road is closed to civilians. Many have attempted to survey the wreckage of their property or deliver supplies to friends and relatives. Officers have barricaded Lahaina due to toxic particles from smoldering areas.

Residents still cannot comprehend the sheer scale of this wildfire. M.J. Dellacruz, a resident of Lahaina, was joking about the news surrounding Hurricane Dora. “Dora the Explorer comes to Maui,” they said and laughed, rolling their eyes. “We just… didn’t know what was going to happen.”(LA Times, 2023)


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