Biden declares emergency in Hawaii as wildfires claim 36 lives

Biden declares emergency in Hawaii as wildfires claim 36 lives

Thousands evacuate Maui as blazes rage out of control

By Darren Lyn

HOUSTON, United States (AA) - The death toll from wildfires in the US state of Hawaii stands at 36 as blazes continued to rage Thursday across the island of Maui.

President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration late Wednesday to assist with emergency and recovery efforts from the devastating fires. White House officials said he made a telephone call to Hawaii Gov. Josh Green and "expressed his deep condolences for the lives lost and vast destruction of land and property."

"We are grateful to the brave firefighters and first responders who continue to run toward danger, putting themselves in harm’s way to save lives," Biden said in a statement. "I have ordered all available Federal assets on the Islands to help with response."

The powerful 60 mile-per-hour (96 kilometers-per-hour) winds from Hurricane Dora in the Pacific Ocean have fueled flames which forced the evacuation of thousands of residents in Maui. Nearly 300 homes and buildings have been destroyed.

Three separate wildfires are also burning across the Big Island as firefighters maneuver to try and keep them contained.

Two thousand travelers were stranded at Maui International Airport due to flight cancellations. Officials said another 4,000 visitors and residents were being sheltered at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. Authorities are urging tourists and residents to stay away from affected areas.

"I urge all residents to continue to follow evacuation orders, listen to the instructions of first responders and officials, and stay alert," said Biden.

The US Coast Guard has already rescued at least 14 people who jumped into the water trying to escape the wildfires. They are continuing to conduct search and rescue efforts for others missing and issued a safety zone and temporary flight restrictions in affected areas.

"We urge residents to heed the safety warnings from officials and to adhere to evacuation orders and safety guidelines issued by local authorities," Coast Guard officials said in a statement.

The Hawaii National Guard was also deployed as part of the emergency declaration.

"The Hawaii National Guard is supporting civilian authorities responding to the deadly Maui wildfires," said Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau in an X social media post. "Our hearts go out to the families & friends of those killed in this disaster."

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