Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) on Thursday said the destructive wildfires impacting Maui Island are “likely the largest natural disaster in Hawaii’s state history.”
The wildfires, which began Tuesday and continue to blaze, have destroyed acres of property and taken dozens of lives.
“What we saw was the utter devastation of Lahaina,” Green said at a press conference. “What we saw was likely the largest natural disaster in Hawaii’s state history.”
Green announced that Lahaina, the former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom and rich with cultural history, is about 80 percent “gone.”
Lahaina’s famous banyan tree, imported from India 150 years ago, is scorched and locals fear it may not survive the fire.
“It does appear that a bomb went off,” Green said of the fire’s impact on Maui.
Green expects the full extent of the damage to be “in the billions of dollars.”
As of Wednesday, the fire had destroyed 2,000 acres of private and state land.
As Axios detailed:
Extreme winds from Hurricane Dora and drought conditions across Hawaii exacerbated the spread of the wildfires, though the specific cause was not immediately known.
Wildfires also impacted Hawaii’s Big Island, with two brush fires reported in the Big Island’s North and South Kohala districts on Tuesday, according to Hawaii County officials.
The death toll reached 53 people as of Thursday, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire since the 2018 Camp Fire in California killed at least 85 people. Green cautioned that the death toll will rise “significantly” in the coming days.
Many people remain missing due to power, internet, and communication outages caused by the fire.
More than 11,000 Maui residents are still without power as of Thursday.
President Joe Biden on Thursday declared a major disaster, opening up federal aid for the impacted areas.