Prayers and support are needed as the death toll in Hawaii continues to climb from the historic wildfires. At least 55 people are confirmed dead and that number is expected to rise. Much of the Lahaina area’s culture has been erased with as many as 270 buildings damaged or destroyed.
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green says he believes more than 1,000 structures have been destroyed on Maui. “Without a doubt, it feels like a bomb was dropped on Lahaina,” the governor said
“There’s no food, no restaurants are open, no stores are open, nobody can get gas,” said one Hawaiian tourist after escaping.
Lahaina, Hawaii is home to about 13,000 people in Maui. Now, the mayor says the town is “gone” after the largest and deadliest fire on record raged throughout the streets Wednesday and Thursday. The once-historic district is being described as an apocalyptic scene.
“Unfortunately, almost every single business inside 1st St. is burnt down,” said Maui Boat Capt. Javier Cantellopes. “So, anything that was a wooden structure is pretty much gone – anything that was concrete – like, the old courthouse is still standing up. But pretty much everything else is burnt down.”
Richie Olsten, a Maui helicopter pilot for 52 years says the destruction reaches as far as the eye can see.
“We were not prepared for what we saw,” said Olsten. “What we saw looked like an area that had been bombed and burned by in a war zone. It was unbelievable.”
Survivors tell disturbing stories of narrow escape – some with only the clothes on their backs. Nise Davies from Nashville was vacationing just miles away from the flames. She tells CBN News she’s just grateful to be alive.
“(There were) billows of black smoke, and a second billow of white smoke,” said Nise. “It (the city) was literally burnt to the ground with ashes.”
Maui Co. officials say the wildfire in Lahaina is roughly 80 percent contained but power isn’t expected to be restored for days, if not weeks. They say a red-flag alert with dry conditions, low humidity, and high winds helped fan the flames of the massive inferno.
“And then the reason it spreads so fast is there are reports of gusts of up to 85 miles per hour,” said Major Gen. Kenneth S. Hara with Hawaii’s Defense Department. “That’s why Maui County had such a hard time doing containment of the fire.”
President Biden has declared Maui a disaster zone, making federal funds available to help those affected. The money will be used for temporary housing, home repairs, and other efforts to help pick up the pieces.
CBN’s Operation Blessing is connecting with churches in Hawaii and supporting their efforts – including Pastor Josh of Kings Cathedral which sheltered and fed 400 displaced people.
“They truly have a heart for the Lord and for their community that has been so devastated,” said one operations manager with OB’s U.S. Disaster Relief. “We will continue to make contacts with others on the ground to stay abreast of any additional areas that USDR can lend support to. “
Jonathan Laurie – the youngest son of evangelist and pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship – tells CBN’s Faith Nation their church in Lahaina, Harvest at Kumulani Chapel, is finding it hard to cope in the immediate aftermath.
“About ten families or more that we know of already lost their homes, lost their businesses,” he said. “They had to run out of their houses in the middle of the night because they heard the evacuation call.”
Contacting his team on the ground is hard because communications are down. Families with nothing left are taking refuge inside the church while emergency crews work to pick up the pieces.
“We need to be praying for the peace of the people there, praying for their safety,” Jonathan said. “I heard officials saying that they’re up to 10 days out from having electricity – so this will be an ongoing thing for at least a couple of weeks.
And recovery and relief efforts will take far longer as Hawaiians hit by the fires look to rebuild.