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Hundreds of structures were destroyed as a Hawaiian resort town was severely impacted by a massive wildfire fueled by gusty winds.
Maui County officials said Thursday that 53 people have now died as a massive wildfire tore through a significant portion of the resort Hawaiian town of Lahaina.
As of Wednesday evening, 271 structures had been impacted, and officials reported "widespread damage" in Lahaina and surrounding areas.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration, making federal resources more readily available.
"Anyone who’s lost a loved one, home damaged or destroyed is going to get help immediately," President Biden said.
He added that he talked to Hawaii Gov. Josh Green and promised the state will have "everything it needs."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town of Lahaina has a population of 12,702 residents. Officials said that 11,000 people were flown out of the area on Wednesday.
"Tragedy that hits one of us is felt by all of us," said Maui County Mayor Richard Missen. "These past few days, the resolve of our families, businesses and visitors have been tested like never before in our lifetime with lives lost and properties decimated. We are grieving with each other during this inconsolable time. We are truly grateful for our first responders and emergency personnel whose own families and friends have been affected by the Lahaina and upcountry fires."
Officials opened two additional shelters in nearby towns for residents, bringing the total number to six. Lahaina remained closed as of early Thursday as firefighters continued to put out hotspots.
Mass bus evacuation for residents and visitors in West Maui are expected to resume Thursday morning. These residents and visitors will either be sent to Kahului Airport or area shelters.
The county said the Hawaii Community Foundation started a Maui Strong Fund to support residents impacted by the fire.
The wildfires were fueled by gusty winds as Hurricane Dora passed to the south of Hawaii. The National Weather Service measured a wind gust of 67 mph in Maui County early Wednesday.
The winds are expected to subside on Thursday.
@scrippsnews At least 36 people have been confirmed dead and more than 250 structures have been damaged. Crews are still battling active fires. #wildfire #Maui #Hawaii ♬ original sound - Scripps News
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