At Least 55 Died in Hawaii Fires, Thousands of Structures Exposed

August 11, 2023

Wildfires on Maui have killed at least 55 people and wiped out a historic town, exposing thousands of structures in a disaster that could end up exceeding early damage and loss estimates of more than $8 billion.

The Associated Press reported the most serious of fires left Lahaina ashen rubble, wedged between the blue ocean and lush green slopes, describing skeletal remains of buildings, roofs that pancaked in the blaze, and boats in the harbor were scorched.

Tourism is also taking a hit, an effect that is expected to last for some time. Maui’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism, with some estimating it accounts for 75% of the revenue generated on the island. The Hawaii Department of Transportation announced that there are no cruise ship operations scheduled for Kahului Harbor lasting through Aug. 31.

Roughly 3,400 structures in Lahaina and central Maui valued at $3.3 billion were exposed, according to an estimate from Marsh McLennan’s Guy Carpenter.

AccuWeather on Thursday issued a preliminarily estimate of the total damage and economic loss from the wildfires burning in Hawaii at between $8 billion and $10 billion.

Official reports indicate roughly 1,700 structures have been burned in Lahaina, but modeler Karen Clark & Company estimates that some 3,500 structures fall within the fire perimeter.

“KCC estimates the insured loss will be the second largest in Hawaii’s history—second only to a repeat of Hurricane Iniki based on today’s property values,” a KCC release states. “There have been two wildfires in the past 20 years that started within 10 miles of the Lahaina fire: the Olowalu Fire in 2007 resulted in 2,500 acres burned, and the Maalaea Fire in 2016 burned 6,000 acres.”

Recent reports have questioned how much warming residents got. Some residents reported receiving text alerts, but it is unclear why the warnings were not more widespread.

The fires began on Tuesday, but there was no specific warning ahead of the fires, and the National Weather Service issued warnings for strong winds and dry weather that can help fuel wildfires, but that warning was cancelled on Wednesday, the BBC is reporting.


Topics Hawaii

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