Thousands of tourists evacuated from fire-hit Hawaiian island

More than 14,000 tourists were moved off the Hawaiian island of Maui as the death toll from wildfires rose to 53.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said holidaymakers had either gone home or carried on their trips elsewhere in Hawaii.

An additional 14,500 people are also being moved out of Maui after multiple wildfires which also struck the Mauna Kea Resort area on the island of Hawaii.

Up to 2,000 tourists and residents evacuated from the island are being offered temporary accommodation at a convention centre on O’ahu island with support from the American Red Cross.

An estimated 288,000 tourists have visited Maui this summer.

The evacuations came as US president Joe Biden signed a major disaster declaration for Hawaii, dedicating “significantly” more federal resources to help with recovery efforts underway for Maui and Hawaii island.

Federal funding will be made available to support urgent needs for Maui residents, including debris removal and enhanced emergency protective measures for communities incurring damage from the wildfires. 

Government grants will be made available to individuals and families needing to rebuild homes, cover uninsured property losses, and help businesses with their recovery, according to the tourism authority.

The historic coastal town of Lahaina was almost totally destroyed as blazes were fanned by high winds.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said in an update on the wildfires on Thursday: “Through the tireless efforts of our airline, hotel, and ground transportation partners, more than 14,000 people were moved off the island of Maui yesterday, August 9, to return home or continue with their vacation elsewhere in Hawaii. 

“By the end of today, it is estimated that an additional 14,500 people will be moved off Maui.”

Hotels and holiday accommodation rental owners have been urged to consider how they might be able to house Maui residents displaced by the fires.

“Non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged at this time,” the authority added. “Visitors currently on Maui for non-essential travel reasons are being asked to leave the island as rescue and recovery efforts continue.

“Airlines are being very supportive during this emergency crisis and providing additional flights to help visitors depart from Maui. Airlines are also adjusting their travel schedules to support those visitors who had planned to arrive this week.

“Visitors who have travel plans to west Maui in the coming weeks are encouraged to consider rescheduling their travel plans for a later time.”

The authority praised industry partners for their “monumental show of support”.

A Hawaii Wildfire Relief Fund has been launched by GlobalGiving which will support wildfire relief and recovery efforts in affected communities. Initially, the fund will help first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, medicine, and shelter.

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