Hawaii governor declares emergency for Maui wildfires
By Jolyn Rosa
HONOLULU (Reuters) – Hawaii’s governor on Friday declared an emergency on the island of Maui, where firefighters were battling a blaze that forced the evacuations of thousands of people and sent huge clouds of smoke billowing over nearby beaches.
Although most of the evacuees were later allowed to return home, the blaze more than tripled in size to spread over about 9,000 acres (3,642 hectares), scorching mostly former sugarcane fields and brush.
“I am declaring our Valley Isle a disaster area for the purpose of implementing the emergency management functions as allowed by law,” Governor David Ige said in a statement.
The fire in Maui, sometimes called the Valley Isle, had been 60 percent contained by sunset but officials warned that even though the shelters were shut, they might need to reopen if more evacuations were ordered.
Authorities had also managed to contain about 35 percent of a second, smaller fire across roughly 200 acres (81 hectares), that had broken out north of the first near Kahului, forcing some voluntary evacuations.
This second fire was being investigated as a possible arson by the Maui Police Department, local media reported. No other details were available early Saturday.
The major blaze began in the island’s central valley on Thursday, with its flames stoked by steady winds of up to 20 miles per hour (30 kph), officials said.
Thousands of residents and visitors in the communities of Maalaea and Kihei fled as a precaution, while firefighters struggling to quell the blaze drafted in helicopters to drop water on the flames.
There were no reports of injuries or damage to buildings, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser said. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
On Twitter, the governor thanked media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who owns a property on Maui, after she opened a private road on Thursday to assist officials tackling the fire.
(Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Clarence Fernandez and Toby Chopra)
More Top Stories
Saudi Arabia supports cooperation between oil producers to stabilize the oil market but Russia’s opposition to a proposal last month to deepen oil supply cuts …read more
U.S. stock index futures climbed on Thursday, a day after Wall Street recorded its steepest fall in two weeks on intensifying coronavirus fears, with investors …read more
President Donald Trump on Thursday was tested again to determine whether he had been infected by the coronavirus, and the test came back negative, the …read more
The U.S. Navy is expected to relieve the commander of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote a scathing letter that leaked to the public …read more
A record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the U.S. government said on Thursday, after another four states told residents to stay …read more
U.S. Democratic candidate Joe Biden said his party’s nominating convention should be held in August rather than July as the coronavirus health crisis upends life …read more