Survivors Describe Maui Wildfire Horror as Death Toll Continues to Rise

Rescuers continue to search the rubble for survivors and the dead, days after a devastating wildfire destroyed the idyllic town of Lahaina, Hawaii.


Rescuers continue to search the rubble for survivors and the dead, days after a devastating wildfire destroyed the idyllic town of Lahaina, Hawaii.

  • The death toll of the catastrophe – 93 dead at time of publication, the deadliest fire in the US in more than 100 years – is already horrific and is only expected to grow as scores of people remain unaccounted for.
  • The fast-moving flames took many by surprise and none of Maui’s warning sirens were activated, contributing to the high death toll. Just 3% of Lahaina has been searched at time of publication, meaning we have barely scratched the surface of the full scale of the catastrophe.
  • Some survivors spoke to AP News about what they had lost.
    • Taufa Samisani and his wife Katalina lost an aunt, uncle, a cousin, and a grandnephew after their car was consumed by fire just outside their home as they tried to escape.
    • Zac Wasserman searched for his uncle David Hawley, who uses a wheelchair after a stroke immobilized him last year. After days of trying his phone, they finally learned that Hawley had survived the blaze.
  • AP News also shared the stories of some of the victims.
    • The remains of Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, Salote Takafua, and her son Tony Takafua, a family of four, were found in a burned car near their home on Thursday.
    • Retired fireman Geoff Bogar and his friend Franklin Trejos tried to help others escape before being forced to flee to their cars. Bogar survived, but when he returned the next day he found Trejos’ bones in his car, lying on top of the body of Bogar’s golden retriever Sam.
  • Lahaina is a town steeped in history. The town was the capital of the former Kingdom of Hawaii in the 19th century and many of its wooden homes had stood for decades. Now, more than 80% of the town’s 2,700 structures were damaged or destroyed in the wildfire.
  • Hawaii officials have urged tourists to stay away from Maui as many of the island’s hotels are being appropriated to shelter evacuees and first responders.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Fire survivor Annelise Cochran told the Washington Post she feels “lucky to be alive” after spending five hours in the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday night after fleeing the flames. She was among the dozens rescued by firefighters from the waters near Lahaina.
  • CNN reported Hawaii officials underestimated the wildfire threat. “When Hawaii officials released a report last year ranking the natural disasters most likely to threaten state residents, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic hazards featured prominently. Near the bottom of a color-coded chart, the state emergency management agency described the risk of wildfires to human life with a single word: ‘low.’”
  • NBC News reported “Three law firms filed a class-action suit Saturday against Hawaii Electric, alleging that the destruction “could have been avoided” had the utility company de-energized its power lines ahead of the high-wind weather.”



  • Breitbart published photos from the devastation. Survivors were seen sitting on a fire-damaged banyan tree and standing amid the ruins of their destroyed homes. One photo showed burned-out cars filling the roads near the seafront.
  • According to Fox News, Hawaii Governor Josh Green described the disaster area as a “war zone” that had been “completely destroyed.” Green called global warming “very real” and linked the disaster to climate change, saying “”That’s what a fire hurricane is going to look like in the era of global warming.”
  • The Wall Street Journal covered the efforts of Maui residents to conduct their own relief efforts in the face of the wildfires. Groups of locals and dozens of small boats have arrived to provide support for those in need. “Maui and Hawaii has always been about aloha. It’s a very small community and we need to help each other,” one resident told the WSJ.


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© Dominic Moore, 2023