Survivors in Maui Kept Running Because 'the Fire Didn't Stop'

Death toll climbs and will rise again, governor says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2023 7:35 PM CDT
Survivors in Maui Kept Running Because 'the Fire Didn't Stop'
The sun shines through clouds over wildfire wreckage in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The official death toll in the wildfire that swept through the Hawaiian island of Maui rose to 53 on Thursday, and Gov. Josh Green said it will go higher. "I'll tell you, by the time this disaster is all described, I'm sure there will be dozens of people that lost their lives and billions of dollars of property that was destroyed," Green told CNN. Neighborhoods in Lahaina are turned to ash, per the AP. Only a few stone structures remain, Green said, estimating the number of buildings destroyed at 1,700. President Biden declared a major disaster in Hawaii and dispatched aid, per the Washington Post. More than 14,000 people were taken off Maui on Wednesday, and another 14,500 were to be removed Thursday. Those who survived the disaster described what they've endured:

Marlon Vasquez: "I opened the door and the fire was almost on top of us. We ran and ran. We ran almost the whole night and into the next day, because the fire didn't stop." With his brother Eduardo, he fled along roads snarled by cars filled with people trying to escape. He vomited because of the toxic smoke.
Chelsey Vierra: "We got to find our loved one, but there's no communication here." She doesn't know if her grandmother, Louise Abihai, a resident of Hale Mahaolu, made it to safety. "She doesn't have a phone. She's 97 years old," Vierra said, adding: "She can walk. She is strong."
John Holwick: "When we were evacuating, it felt almost like a video game. We were like: 'Pack your bags … take your valuables. You might lose your home,'" the 15-year-old said. As he and his family drove away, he said: "You had to dodge trees flying down. Your eyes were burning." He's worried about what's next. "I don't want to lose my home," the teenager said. "Memories are there, and I don't want to lose them."
James Bruggeman: "Everybody we know lost their homes, every apartment complex. We don't know anybody who kept their homes."
Steven Potter: "You had to get out of your car and run for your life. People fled toward the water. We ended up waiting down on the rocks for eight hours until firefighters came to rescue us." He kept his face covered with a wet shirt while exposed to the smoke. Still, Potter said, "I was coughing up black."
Christina Lovitt: The boat captain transports food and medicine to the neighboring island of Lanai, which has fewer resources. This week, she watched the boat she's sunk "every penny" into burn on the water. Later, she and other women took a skiff into the darkness when the Coast Guard asked for help finding survivors who'd jumped into the water to escape the fire. They rescued two boys, 5 and 6, after her own boat burned. "To see this beautiful thing I've spent my life on just disappear—it was just the most tragic thing," Lovitt said. "But we were able to save those kids." (More Hawaii stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.