I could see the flames approaching from the window of my house, so I hurriedly jumped into my car and headed for the main street. However, the road was congested with traffic and no cars were moving forward at all. Amidst the smoke, I had no choice but to abandon my car and run away. ……”
Mike Andresa, 35, an office worker on the island of Maui, confessed in a trembling voice. The fire that broke out on August 8 on the U.S. island of Maui, Hawaii, has been called “the worst in Hawaii’s history,” with over 1,300 people dead or missing (as of August 15).
After getting out of my car, I ran to escape the flames, but when they finally cornered me on the beach, I had no choice but to jump into the ocean. I ended up taking shelter at sea for about three hours, during which time I suffered burns on my back from the hot air. It was a tremendous fire – it was a terrible fire.
On the way back to where my home was after the fire had calmed down, I saw many charred burnt bodies. I couldn’t help but wonder why I had survived.
The area destroyed by the fire is said to have exceeded 870 ha (2,630,000 tsubo). Evacuation centers set up in churches and schools and hospitals were overflowing with people, and it is estimated that nearly 30,000 residents who were unable to secure space for temporary housing will flee Maui.
Why was the fire so large? Weathermap Chairman and meteorologist Masamitsu Morita explains.
The dry weather and strong winds are thought to be the biggest causes. We don’t know the exact numbers because there is no observatory on the island, but Maui was in the dry season, and it was ‘abnormally dry’ over a wide area. In addition, Hurricane Dora passed over the Pacific Ocean and brought strong winds that blew over the mountain range in the center of the island. This caused the fire to spread, leaving people nowhere to escape.
Inadequate fire prevention equipment and other man-made disasters have also been pointed out. Aina Koehler, 42, a local firefighter, testified that fire hydrants were not working and firefighters were unable to extinguish the fires.
We tried to save as many people as we could, but we couldn’t,” she said. There was no way to stop the fire because the water pipes were damaged and there was no water left in the hydrants.
A number of people testified that even after the fire spread, alarms and cell phone alerts did not work, delaying the evacuation of residents.
As of August 15, a week after the fire broke out, the cause of the fire had not been determined, but residents of Lahaina in the western part of the island, which suffered extensive damage, have filed a class action lawsuit, claiming that the fire was started when the power lines of the local power company were cut by strong winds.
The islanders have lost so much, but they have to live with the thought that they are lucky to have any life left.”
Hawaii Governor Josh Green told CNN that he believes the death toll could double. How far will the toll of this unprecedented catastrophe spread?
From the September 1, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Uniphoto Press (1-2 photos)