June 20, 2024
The wildfire that swept across Maui a week ago turned one of the nation's most celebrated island vistas into an ashen moonscape and killed at least 99 people, a number that officials warn could rise by scores as the search continues.

The wildfire that swept across Maui a week ago turned one of the nation’s most celebrated island vistas into an ashen moonscape and killed at least 99 people, a number that officials warn could rise by scores as the search continues.

The deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than a century devoured homes and businesses, blackened cars and left only ruins where thriving neighborhoods once stood. In some places, the flames advanced as fast as a car at highway speed — a mile a minute.

A burnt tree stands in front of a home destroyed by a wildfire on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, in Kula, Hawaii. Kula was ravaged by a wildfire the same day one ripped through Lahaina. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

People watch as smoke and flames fill the air from raging wildfires on Front Street in downtown Lahaina, Maui on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. Maui officials say wildfire in the historic town has burned parts of one of the most popular tourist areas in Hawaii. County of Maui spokesperson Mahina Martin said in a phone interview early Wednesday fire was widespread in Lahaina, including Front Street, an area of the town popular with tourists. (Alan Dickar via AP)

The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames along Wainee Street on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via AP)

This photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources shows burnt areas in Lahaina on the Maui island, Hawaii, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, following a wildfire. (Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources via AP)

A group of volunteers who sailed from Maalaea Bay, Maui, form an assembly line on Kaanapali Beach on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, to unload donations from a boat. Maui residents have come together to donate water, food and other essential supplies to people on the western side of the island after a deadly fire destroyed hundreds of homes and left scores of people homeless. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The destroyed Waiola Church is shown following wildfire, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Currently, the Maui wildfires are the nation’s fifth-deadliest on record, according to research by the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit that publishes fire codes and standards used in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Wildfire wreckage is shown Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Currently, the Maui wildfires are the nation’s fifth-deadliest on record, according to research by the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit that publishes fire codes and standards used in the U.S. and around the world.(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Destroyed homes and cars are shown, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Hawaii officials urge tourists to avoid traveling to Maui as many hotels prepare to house evacuees and first responders on the island where a wildfire demolished a historic town and killed dozens. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Charred vehicles sit near a wildfire-destroyed home Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, in Kula, Hawaii. The same day a wildfire ripped through Lahaina, one tore through Kula, as well. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The charred remains of a vehicle sit near a wildfire-destroyed home Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, in Kula, Hawaii. The same day a wildfire ripped through Lahaina, one tore through Kula, as well. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

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The most serious blaze swept into Lahaina on Aug. 8 and destroyed nearly every building in the town of 13,000. When the flames were out and the smoke cleared, all that remained was a grid of gray rubble wedged between the blue ocean and lush green slopes.

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Now begins a long recovery as survivors mourn the dead, search teams look for more victims in the charred debris and families try to begin anew.

The cause of the wildfire is under investigation. Fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, the flames raced through parched brush covering the island.

The fire was Hawaii’s deadliest natural disaster in decades, surpassing a 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people. A tsunami in 1946 killed more than 150 on the Big Island.

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