36 Dead, People Jump Into Ocean To Escape Hawaii Wildfire

Video posted on social media showed blazes tearing through the heart of the beachfront town and sending up huge plumes of black smoke.

Kahului:  The death count from a wildfire that turned a historic Hawaiian town to ashes has risen to 36 people, officials said Wednesday.

“As the firefighting efforts continue, 36 total fatalities have been discovered today amid the active Lahaina fire,” the Maui county government said in a statement.

The fires began burning early Tuesday, putting homes, businesses and utilities at risk, as well as more than 35,000 people on the island of Maui, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.

The fires have burned more than 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of land, the state agency said.

“High, gusty winds and dry conditions put much of Hawai’i under a Red Flag Warning that ended late Wednesday, and more fires were burning on the Big Island and Maui.”

The fires had sent desperate residents jumping into the ocean in a bid to escape the fast-moving flames.

More than 270 buildings have been damaged or destroyed in the seriously affected town of Lahaina, officials said earlier on Wednesday.

“Much of Lahaina on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced,” said Governor Josh Green of the 12,000-resident historic town, which is popular with tourists.

Video posted on social media showed blazes tearing through the heart of the beachfront town and sending up huge plumes of black smoke.

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