Continuous coverage of the catastrophic Hawaii fires has moved here.
LAHAINA, Hawaii – A cataclysmic fire that tore through a historic Hawaiian town has left behind a trail of ashes and destruction as the death toll continues to rise and search and rescue crews tirelessly sift through the debris.
"Our streets are gone, the whole town is gone, our life is gone," Lahaina resident Chuck Dicker said.
The wall of flames that ravaged the island of Maui claimed the lives of at least 93 people, with two of the deaths identified. Gov. Josh Green said the death toll is expected to rise.
A significant number of remains were discovered in the popular tourist spot of Lahaina, government officials said.
With most homes decimated, large Xs now mark cars and mailboxes to let rescue teams know if those places have already been searched for bodies. In some places, the water is now unsafe to drink because of contaminants from the fires.
"This crisis is far from over," said Hawaii's former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. "There's so much frustration. There's so much suffering. The real mourning has not even been able to begin to start because of people really looking to, ‘How do I get me and my family to tomorrow?'"
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Nearly 5,000 structures exposed, damaged or destroyed
The fires at fault are now 85% contained as crews continue working to extinguish flare-ups in Lahaina, Pulehu/Kihei and Upcountry Maui.
Those who have come back have seen a place that’s been largely reduced to ash.
"It’s kind of sad to see everyone going without things," Lahaina resident Ashley Yamamoto said. "We want to help as much as we can, but we have just as much as everybody else. And it sucks because we can’t do nothing about it."
According to Pacific Disaster Center, as of Friday, 2,170 acres burned in Lahaina. Damage assessments in the town resulted in nearly 5,000 structures exposed, damaged or destroyed by fire. Nearly 90% of buildings exposed to the fire were classified as residential.
It’s still unclear how the fires started, but when they did ignite, the island was ripe for an inferno. Extremely dry conditions combined with 70- to 80-mph winds fueled the flames and created a challenging battle for the island's firefighters.
Hawaiian Electric said they have restored power to one of three main transmission lines serving West Maui and restored service to some customers in Napili, Puukolii, and Mahinahina where essential public services, such as water pumps and first responder facilities, are located.
The company has not addressed questions on whether a utility line contributed to any of the fires but directed FOX Weather to a statement regarding ongoing outages, saying they have "all hands on deck in supporting and responding to Maui communities affected by the outages, active wildfires, and sustained high wind damage."
Residents wait hours in hopes of returning home
Thousands of people fled from the quick-moving fires Tuesday, many of whom are now without a home. Officials said more than 1,400 people are still using emergency evacuation shelters throughout the island.
Many residents of Lahaina said they were given little warning of the approaching blaze and that the island’s emergency sirens didn’t go off, with texts being sent out instead. Many escaped with just their lives, as some were forced to jump into the water to save themselves as their town was razed by fire.
In Ka’anapali, utility crews are beginning to restore communication and power to hundreds, if not thousands, of people in nearby communities. However, residents have been urged to conserve resources and told to text instead of talk.
A county fueling station was also positioned in the town to distribute an estimated 3,000 gallons of gas and 500 gallons of diesel for nearly 400 vehicles lined up before the operation began. No fuel will be distributed Saturday.
Police are still restricting access into West Maui as residents wait for hours in long lines of cars in hopes of returning home to salvage anything they can from what the fire took from them.
Help on the way
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green announced a new relief program to re-house the thousands who now have no home.
"This means we will be able to get people into hotel rooms, Airbnbs and so on so that they are safe," he said. "Look out for your neighbors. Love them. That's what we will be defined by in the future. How we take care of our ohana (family)."
If you would like to help the people of Lahaina and Maui, check out this page for suggestions.