Large wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, have resulted in the deaths of 55 people so far and extensive damage in the historic town of Lahaina.
The fires, which broke out on Tuesday, have yet to be contained. On Thursday, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green described the wildfires as “likely the largest natural disaster in Hawaii state history.” Although 55 people have died, he warned that the death toll could exceed a 1960 tsunami that took 61 lives, The Washington Post reported.
According to NBC News, among the institutions that burned down in Lahaina was Wailoa, a 200-year-old church that has been a staple amongst the town’s residents. It was also one of the first markets of Christianity in Maui.
“It was a gathering place, it was a staple of Lahaina,” Kūhiō Lewis, the CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, said. “Like when you think of Seattle, you think of the Space Needle. In Lahaina, it was that church.”
Lewis noted that the church had been standing since Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the 1800s and that it had recently celebrated its 200th anniversary this year. Throughout its existence, the church was a primary location for community gatherings in the 1820s and 2020s.
On Wednesday, Dr. Reza Danesh spent about 14 hours treating people and driving them to evacuation shelters. He treated one woman covered in minor burns who had jumped into the ocean to avoid the flames. Her neighbor, who had joined her, however, passed away.
“I heard that story and I was just so sad,” Danesh said. “There she was, keeping her spirits, and her pets had all died, and she had nothing, and I’m taking care of her wounds.”
President Joe Biden declared a “major disaster” in Hawaii on Thursday and called for federal aid and support in the recovery efforts in the areas impacted by the wildfires. Additionally, over 130 Hawaii National Guard members have been activated, and helicopter searches for people stranded in areas without power and accessible roads are underway.
According to PowerOutage.us, as of Friday morning, over 11,000 people in Maui were without power.
Photo courtesy: Zoltan Tasi/Unsplash, this is a stock image.
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.