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At Least 36 Killed On Maui As Fires Burn Through Hawaii And Thousands Race To Escape

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(WAILUKU, Hawaii) – Thousands of Hawaii residents rushed to flee their homes on Maui as fires raged across the island, destroying parts of a centuries-old village and killing at least 36 people in one of the deadliest wildfires in recent years in the United States.

The fire caught the island off guard, leaving burned-out automobiles on once-busy streets and burning piles of wreckage where historic buildings once stood in Lahaina Town, which dates back to the 1700s and has long been a popular tourist destination. Crews battled fires in multiple locations across the island on Wednesday, forcing several people and children to flee into the ocean.

According to a statement issued late Wednesday by Maui County, at least 36 individuals have perished, with no other details available. Officials had stated that 271 structures had been damaged or destroyed, and dozens of people had been hurt. The Camp Fire in California in 2018 killed at least 85 people and nearly destroyed the town of Paradise.

With the fires still burning and teams reaching out to explore scorched regions, officials cautioned that the death toll in Hawaii might grow.

On Tuesday afternoon, Kamuela Kawaakoa and Iiulia Yasso of Lahaina reported a terrifying escape beneath smoke-filled skies. After a short sprint to the grocery for water, the couple and their 6-year-old son returned to their flat with enough time to change clothes and flee as the bushes around them caught fire.

“We barely made it out,” Kawaakoa said at an evacuation center on Wednesday, still unclear if their flat was still intact.

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Thousands of Hawaii residents rushed to flee their homes on Maui as fires raged across the island.

As the family escaped, a senior center across the street caught fire. They contacted 911 but had no idea if the people had escaped. Downed electricity poles and others fleeing in cars impeded their progress as they drove away. “It was so hard to just sit there and watch my town burn to ashes and not be able to do anything,” said Kawaakoa, 34.

Tourists were urged to avoid the area while the flames raged, and approximately 11,000 people flew out of Maui on Wednesday, with at least another 1,500 scheduled to leave on Thursday, according to Ed Sniffen, state transportation director. Officials in Honolulu prepared the Hawaii Convention Centre to house thousands of displaced people.

Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. states that the island has “been tested like never before in our lifetime.”

“We are grieving with each other during this inconsolable time,” he added in an audio recording. “In the days ahead, we will be stronger as a’kaiaulu,’ or community, as we rebuild with resilience and aloha.”

Strong gusts from Hurricane Dora, passing far to the south, fanned the fires. It’s the latest in a string of calamities triggered by harsh weather this summer worldwide. According to experts, climate change is increasing the risk of such disasters.

hawaii fires

Thousands of Hawaii residents rushed to flee their homes on Maui as fires raged across the island.

The fires in Hawaii are not like those in the Western United States. They typically start in extensive grasslands on the drier portions of the islands and are much smaller than mainland fires. In 2021, a big fire on the Big Island destroyed homes and drove people to flee. The Big Island is also experiencing fires, according to Mayor Mitch Roth. However, there have been no reports of injuries or destroyed properties.

Pilots could see the full extent of the wreckage as the winds eased on Maui on Wednesday. Aerial footage from Lahaina showed hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed, including those on Front Street, where tourists used to congregate to shop and dine. Smoking rubble mounds were piled high along the waterfront, boats in the harbor were burnt, and grey smoke lingered over the leafless carcasses of charred trees.

“It’s frightening. “I’ve been flying here for 52 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Richard Olsten, a tour business helicopter pilot. “We both had tears in our eyes.”Search-and-rescue teams are dispersed throughout the destroyed areas in the hopes of locating survivors, according to Adam Weintraub, communication director for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Concerned about future casualties, Weintraub stated, “These were large and fast-moving fires, and it’s only recently that we’ve started to get our arms around them and contain them.” So, we’re praying for the best but bracing for the worse.”

Around 14,500 Maui customers were without electricity early Wednesday. Many people could not contact relatives and family living near the flames due to a lack of mobile service and phone connections in some locations. Some were using social media to send messages.

Tiare Lawrence was desperately attempting to contact her siblings, who live near the Lahaina petrol station that erupted.

“There’s no service, so we can’t reach anyone,” she explained from Pukalani, Maui.

The Hawaii State Department of Defense’s Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara told reporters Wednesday night that officials were working to restore communications, provide water, and add law enforcement troops. According to him, National Guard helicopters splashed 150,000 gallons of water on the Maui fires.

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Thousands of Hawaii residents rushed to flee their homes on Maui as fires raged across the island.

The Coast Guard rescued 14 individuals, including two children, who plunged into the water to escape the flames and smoke.

Officials said three persons with significant burns were hospitalized and evacuated to Oahu.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Maui County Mayor Bissen said investigators had not yet begun investigating the direct cause of the fires, but officials did point to a mix of dry conditions, low humidity, and high winds.

Mauro Farinelli of Lahaina said the winds began to blow fiercely on Tuesday, and a fire started on a hillside.

“It just ripped through everything with amazing speed,” he recalled, adding that it felt “like a blowtorch.”

Farinelli said the winds were so fierce that they blew his garage door off its hinges, trapping his car inside. So a buddy took him, his wife Judit, and their dog Susi to an evacuation shelter. He had no idea what had become of their house.

“We’re hoping for the best,” he said, “but we’re pretty sure it’s gone.”

President Joe Biden directed that all federal assets be available to respond. He stated that the Hawaii National Guard had dispatched helicopters to assist with fire suppression and search-and-rescue activities.

hawaii fires

Thousands of Hawaii residents rushed to flee their homes on Maui as fires raged across the island.

“Our hearts go out to those who have lost their homes, businesses, and communities,” Biden said.

Governor Josh Green cut his trip short and intended to return Wednesday evening. In his absence, interim Gov. Sylvia Luke declared an emergency and advised tourists to avoid the area.

Alan Dicker, who runs a poster gallery and three properties in Lahaina, lamented the town’s and his losses.

“The central two blocks are the economic heart of this island, and I don’t know what’s left,” he explained. “Everything significant I owned burned down today.”

SOURCE – (AP)

Kiara Grace is a staff writer at VORNews, a reputable online publication. Her writing focuses on technology trends, particularly in the realm of consumer electronics and software. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for breaking down complex topics, Kiara delivers insightful analyses that resonate with tech enthusiasts and casual readers alike. Her articles strike a balance between in-depth coverage and accessibility, making them a go-to resource for anyone seeking to stay informed about the latest innovations shaping our digital world.

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Israeli Strikes On Southern Gaza City Of Rafah Kill 22, Mostly Children, As US Advances Aid Package

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Rafah, Gaza Strip (AP) Israeli raids on the southern Gaza city of Rafah overnight killed 22 people, including 18 children, health authorities reported Sunday, as the US prepared to authorize billions of dollars in further military aid to Israel, a key ally.

Israel has conducted near-daily air assaults on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have sought safety from violence elsewhere. It has also threatened to expand its ground offensive against the Hamas militant group to the city on Egypt’s border, despite international pleas for restraint, especially from the United States.

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Israeli Strikes On Southern Gaza City Of Rafah Kill 22, Mostly Children, As US Advances Aid Package

“In the next few days, we will escalate political and military pressure on Hamas because it is the only way to free our hostages and accomplish victory. “We will deliver more and painful blows to Hamas – soon,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in a statement. He did not provide any details.

The first Israeli strike in Rafah killed a man, his wife, and their three-year-old child, according to the adjacent Kuwaiti Hospital that received the bodies. The woman was pregnant, and physicians were able to save her baby, according to the hospital.

According to hospital records, the second strike killed 17 children and two women who were all members of the same extended family. Mohammed al-Beheiri stated that his daughter Rasha and her six children, the youngest of whom is 18 months old, were among those killed. Her husband’s second wife and their three children remained under the rubble, according to al-Beheiri.

According to local health professionals, the Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, decimated Gaza’s two major cities, and left a trail of ruin. Approximately 80% of the territory’s population has evacuated to other areas of the beleaguered coastal enclave.

The House of Representatives approved a $26 billion aid package on Saturday, including approximately $9 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza, which experts say is on the verge of famine. The Senate might vote on the measure as early as Tuesday, and President Joe Biden has promised to sign it quickly.

The fight, now in its seventh month, has caused regional instability, pitting Israel and the United States against Iran and other extremist organizations in the Middle East. This month, Israel and Iran exchanged direct fire, sparking fears of an all-out war between the old adversaries.

Tensions have also increased in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli troops killed two Palestinians who allegedly rushed a checkpoint with a knife and a gun near the southern West Bank town of Hebron early Sunday. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the two people slain were 18 and 19 years old and from the same household. According to the IDF, no Israeli personnel were harmed.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent rescue organization reported recovering 14 bodies during an Israeli raid on the Nur Shams urban refugee camp in the West Bank, which began late Thursday. Three Islamic Jihad members were slain, as was a 15-year-old child. The military says it killed ten militants at the camp and apprehended eight others. Nine Israeli soldiers and officers were wounded.

In a separate incident in the West Bank, an Israeli man was injured by an explosion on Sunday, according to the Magen David Adom rescue agency. A video circulating online depicts a guy approaching a Palestinian flag put in a field. When he kicks it, it appears to set off an explosive device.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, Israeli soldiers and settlers have murdered at least 469 Palestinians in the West Bank since the beginning of the Gaza conflict. Most have been slain during Israeli military incursions, which frequently result in gunfights or in violent protests.

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Israeli Strikes On Southern Gaza City Of Rafah Kill 22, Mostly Children, As US Advances Aid Package

The war in Gaza began with an extraordinary invasion into southern Israel on October 7, in which Hamas and other militants killed over 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were civilians, and kidnapped about 250 captives. According to Israel, militants continue to hold approximately 100 hostages as well as the corpses of more than 30 more.

Thousands of Israelis have marched to the streets, demanding new elections to replace Netanyahu and an agreement with Hamas to rescue the hostages. Netanyahu has vowed to prolong the battle until Hamas is defeated and all captives are released.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, at least 34,097 Palestinians have died in the conflict, with another 76,980 injured. The ministry does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its figure but says at least two-thirds were children and women. It further states that the true toll is likely higher because many dead are trapped beneath the rubble or in regions where medics cannot reach.

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Israeli Strikes On Southern Gaza City Of Rafah Kill 22, Mostly Children, As US Advances Aid Package

Israel accuses Hamas of civilian casualties since the militants operate in densely populated residential areas. The military rarely responds to individual strikes, which frequently murder women and children. The military claims to have killed over 13,000 Hamas fighters without presenting evidence.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Hawaii Lawmakers Take Aim At Vacation Rentals After Lahaina Wildfire Amplifies Maui Housing Crisis

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HONOLULU — Amy Chadwick, a single mother of two, worked hard and saved for years before purchasing a home in the town of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui. However, after a horrific fire destroyed Lahaina in August, Chadwick’s home was reduced to white dust, and the cheapest rental she could find for her family and dogs was $10,000 per month.

Chadwick, a fine-dining server, relocated to Florida to stretch her homeowner’s insurance costs. She’s concerned that Maui’s expensive rental prices, fueled in part by holiday rentals that dominate a limited housing supply, may hollow out her close-knit community.

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Hawaii Lawmakers Take Aim At Vacation Rentals After Lahaina Wildfire Amplifies Maui Housing Crisis

Most individuals in Lahaina work for hotels, restaurants, and tour businesses and cannot afford to pay rent of $5,000 to $10,000 per month, she added.

“You’re displacing an entire community of service industry workers. So no one will be able to sustain the tourist that you’re prioritizing over your town,” Chadwick said over the phone from her new home in Satellite Beach on Florida’s Space Coast. “Nothing positive will come of it until they take a firm stance, putting their foot down and effectively regulating these short-term rentals.

The August 8 wildfire killed 101 people and destroyed houses for 6,200 families, exacerbating Maui’s already severe housing scarcity and exposing the massive number of holiday rentals in Lahaina. It reminded lawmakers that short-term rentals are a problem throughout Hawaii, prompting them to pursue legislation that would give counties the ability to phase them out.

During a recent press conference, Gov. Josh Green became so frustrated that he shouted out an expletive.

“This fire uncovered a clear truth, which is we have too many short-term rentals owned by too many individuals on the mainland and it is b———t,” Green said in a statement. “And our people deserve housing, here.”

Vacation rentals are a popular alternative to hotels for individuals looking for kitchens, lower pricing, and the chance to experience ordinary island life. Supporters claim they enhance tourism, the state’s largest industry. Critics accuse them of raising housing costs, upsetting neighborhoods, and contributing to the dynamics that drive locals and Native Hawaiians to flee Hawaii for less expensive places.

This migration has become a big issue in Lahaina. According to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, a charity, at least 1,500 households have departed since the August wildfire, accounting for a quarter of those who lost their houses.

The fire destroyed single-family homes and apartments in and around downtown, which is the heart of Lahaina’s residential community. According to a study conducted by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, holiday rentals accounted for only 7.5% of all units in February 2023.

Lahaina communities that were spared from the fire have a considerably larger ratio of vacation rentals. Short-term rentals account for roughly half of all housing in Napili, located around 7 miles (11 kilometers) north of the burn zone.

When Chadwick began house hunting in 2016, she thought she had discovered a place to buy in Napili. However, a Canadian woman secured it with a monetary offer and converted it into a vacation rental.

Outside the burn zone, there are scores of short-term rental condominium structures built decades ago on apartment-zoned land.

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Hawaii Lawmakers Take Aim At Vacation Rentals After Lahaina Wildfire Amplifies Maui Housing Crisis

In 1992, Maui County explicitly permitted owners of these buildings to rent units for less than 180 days at a period, even without short-term rental permits. Since November, demonstrators have seized the beach in front of Lahaina’s largest hotels, urging the mayor or governor to exercise their emergency powers and rescind this exemption.

Money is a major incentive for owners to rent to travelers: according to 2016 state data, a Honolulu vacation rental earns 3.5 times the revenue of a long-term rental.

The Housing Committee chair, State Rep. Luke Evslin, stated both Maui and Kauai counties have experienced net losses in residential housing in recent years due to a lack of new building and the conversion of so many properties to short-term rentals.

“Every alarm bell we have should be ringing when we’re literally going backwards in our goal to provide more housing in Hawaii,” he told the crowd.

In his own Kauai district, Evslin sees people fleeing, becoming homeless, or working three jobs to get by.

The Democrat was one of 47 House members who cosponsored a bill that would phase out short-term rentals. One goal is to give counties more authority after a US judge found in 2022 that Honolulu violated state law by attempting to limit rentals of fewer than 90 days. According to Evslin, this ruling left Hawaii’s counties with minimal means for controlling holiday rentals, such as property taxes.

Lawmakers also proposed increasing Hawaii’s housing supply by requiring counties to allow additional houses to be built on individual lots. However, they scaled down the legislation after local officials stated that they were already investigating the notion.

Short-term rental owners claimed that a phase-out would violate their property rights by taking their property without compensation, potentially forcing them into foreclosure. Some anticipated legal issues.

According to Alicia Humiston, president of the Rentals by Owner Awareness Association, several communities in West Maui were created for tourists; thus, they lack schools and other facilities that families require.

“This area in West Maui that is sort of like this resort apartment zone — that’s all north of Lahaina — it was never built to be local living,” he said.

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Hawaii Lawmakers Take Aim At Vacation Rentals After Lahaina Wildfire Amplifies Maui Housing Crisis

According to one housing advocate, just because a city allowed vacation rentals decades ago does not imply it should still do so now.

“We are not living in the 1990s or 1970s,” stated Sterling Higa, executive director of Housing Hawaii’s Future. States “should have the authority to look at existing laws and reform them as necessary to provide for the public good.”

Courtney Lazo, a real estate agent and member of Lahaina Strong, the organization that is occupying Kaanapali Beach, says tourists can now stay in her city, but many locals cannot.

“How do you expect a community to recover, heal, and move forward when the people who make Lahaina, Lahaina, aren’t even there anymore?” she asked at a recent press appearance, her voice quivering. “They’re moving away.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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Next UN Climate Talks Are Critical To Plot Aid For Poorer Nations, Says Incoming President

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Washington — The man who will lead the United Nations climate talks in November sees the negotiations as a critical link in international efforts to combat global warming.

The conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, must build on last year’s successful agreement to transition away from fossil fuels, according to Mukhtar Babayev, Azerbaijan’s environment minister, who will preside over the COP29 discussions in the fall. And this fall’s gathering must create the path for countries to collaborate in 2025 on more robust plans to reduce heat-trapping gases, according to Babayev.

Baku is the location to find common ground on how affluent countries may provide financial assistance to poorer countries who do not contribute as much to global warming but suffer more from climate change, Babayev said in a 30-minute interview with The Associated Press at the Azerbaijan Embassy in Washington.

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Next UN Climate Talks Are Critical To Plot Aid For Poorer Nations, Says Incoming President

“We need to consider any possible actions or activities to bring the parties to be closer to each other,” he said. “We consider Baku as a bridge between the developing and developed world.”

However, the bridge is still under construction.

Most previous climate discussions, known as Conferences of the Parties (COPs), took years to arrange. However, due to geopolitics in Eastern Europe, world leaders were unable to agree on a location for COP29 ahead of time. This is crucial since the host country has the presidency and controls the agenda.

Baku was picked in December as part of a peace agreement between warring Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Babayev will not officially assume command of discussions until November 11, when COP29 begins in Baku. Successful climate discussions can require months or years of travel and labor by president-designates like Babayev to provide the groundwork for agreements and coalitions.

“We only had 10 months to prepare,” Babayev explained. Azerbaijan only recently chose a venue, Baku’s enormous Olympic stadium, to accommodate the approximately 85,000 people who attend these conferences. “A lot of things, they’re not clear now but I think within this year everything will be more or less clear.”

Babayev stated that his team is currently gathering information, meeting individuals, and developing connections, but has not yet established precise goals for the conference.

But there is one overarching goal: more financial assistance for developing countries to transition to cleaner energy systems and deal with the increased heat, floods, storms, and droughts caused by climate change.

“The agenda is to invite all the donors to at least increase their contribution for developing countries,” he stated. “Because with the climate change there we are daily faced with all these impacts.”

This week, Babayev referred to bright and sticky Washington weather, which was 78 degrees (25.6 degrees Celsius), or 8 degrees (4.4 degrees Celsius) warmer than typical. He stated that Baku is currently experiencing similar temperatures, which are also much above usual. He used Dubai, which hosted last year’s climate conference, as an example of the disastrous flooding that occurred this week, which Kazakhstan and other nations experienced.

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Next UN Climate Talks Are Critical To Plot Aid For Poorer Nations, Says Incoming President

Babayev referred to early February in Baku, when temperatures reached a record 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit), breaking the previous February high by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit): “That is not natural. It’s not typical.

Babayev, 56, was in Washington for the spring meetings of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other major financial institutions. He and his colleagues were primarily gathering information. Simon Stiell, the United Nations climate secretary, urged those financial institutions this week to make substantial adjustments, including debt relief for poor countries, to combat global warming and its consequences.

But Babayev is looking at another group: the private sector, which includes banks, investment companies, and so on.

“We call on the private sector to be very active and responsible about this and to be ready to not delay with the offers, the proposals for climate finance,” Babayev said a news conference.

Babayev, like the current COP president, Sultan al-Jaber of Dubai, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil business, spent several years working for the Azerbaijani state-owned oil business. Activists and academics have long criticized the oil sector — one of the largest emitters of heat-trapping gases — for its influence in these United Nations negotiations, which increased last year when it was led by an oil executive. However, al Jaber and Babayev claimed their industry ties are more useful in bringing corporations to the table and getting things done.

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Next UN Climate Talks Are Critical To Plot Aid For Poorer Nations, Says Incoming President

Babayev also expressed hope that Baku, where the world’s first oil fields were developed in 1846 and Azerbaijan led the world in oil production in 1899, can demonstrate how this “oil and gas country of the past” can lead the world down a green path by increasing renewable energy, particularly wind power.

However, according to statistics from experts at the Global Carbon Project, Azerbaijan’s carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels have increased by 13% over the last decade.

SOURCE – AP

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