Maui Wildfires Claim 93 Lives, Cause Unimaginable Grief


The wildfires that ravaged the island of Maui in Hawaii this week have left behind a trail of destruction and devastation, decimating a historic town and killing at least 93 people. The fires, which started on Tuesday, August 8, 2023, were fueled by strong winds and dry conditions, and quickly spread across the island, engulfing homes, businesses, and vehicles. The authorities have said that the effort to count the losses and identify the victims is just starting, as many people are still missing or unaccounted for.

A Family’s Tragic Fate

One of the most heartbreaking stories to emerge from the disaster is that of a family of four who died while trying to escape from the flames. Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, Salote Takafua, and her son, Tony Takafua, were found dead on Thursday in a burned car near their home. They were among the residents of Lahaina, a historic town that was mostly destroyed by the fire.

Maui Wildfires Claim 93 Lives, Cause Unimaginable Grief
Maui Wildfires Claim 93 Lives, Cause Unimaginable Grief

“The magnitude of our grief is indescribable,” read a statement from family members. Lylas Kanemoto, who knew the Tone family, confirmed the devastating news on Sunday. “At least we have closure for them, but the loss and heartbreak is unbearable for many. We as a community have to just embrace each other and support our families, friends, and our community to our best of our abilities,” Kanemoto told the AP by text message.

Kanemoto is still awaiting news on her cousin, Glen Yoshino, who is missing. “I’m afraid he is gone because we have not heard from him and he would’ve found a way to contact family,” Kanemoto said. “We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.”

A Heroic Sacrifice

Another victim of the fire was Franklin Trejos, a 68-year-old friend of retired fire captain Geoff Bogar. The two men initially stayed behind to help others in Lahaina and save Bogar’s house. But as the flames moved closer and closer on Tuesday afternoon, they knew they had to flee. Each escaped to their own car.

When Bogar’s vehicle wouldn’t start, he broke through a window to get out and crawled on the ground until a police patrol found him and brought him to a hospital. Trejos didn’t escape. When Bogar returned the next day, he found the bones of his friend in the back seat of his car, lying on top of the remains of Bogar’s beloved 3-year-old golden retriever Sam, whom he had tried to protect.

“He was a really good man,” Bogar said of Trejos. “He was always helping people.”

A Historic Loss

The fire also claimed the lives of many historical and cultural treasures in Lahaina, which was once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii and a whaling port. The town was home to many historic buildings, such as the Baldwin Home Museum, the Wo Hing Temple Museum, and the Lahaina Banyan Court Park, which features one of the largest banyan trees in the world.

Many of these landmarks were reduced to ashes by the fire, along with dozens of shops, restaurants, art galleries, and hotels that lined the town’s main street. The fire also destroyed many native Hawaiian plants and animals that were endemic to Maui.

“It’s like losing a part of our history and identity,” said Kekoa Enomoto, president of Na Kupuna O Maui (The Elders of Maui), a group that advocates for Hawaiian culture and rights. “Lahaina was a place where our ancestors lived and thrived. It was a place where we could connect with our past and our future.”

A Hopeful Recovery

Despite the immense loss and sorrow caused by the fire, many people are also showing signs of resilience and hope. On Sunday, hundreds of people attended a mass at Sacred Hearts Mission Church in Kapalua, which hosted congregants from Maria Lanakila Catholic Church in Lahaina, including several people who lost family members in the fire.

The church offered prayers and comfort to those affected by the tragedy, as well as donations of food, water, clothing, and other essentials. Many people also expressed their gratitude for the firefighters, police officers, volunteers, and other first responders who risked their lives to save others.

“We are here to support each other and help each other heal,” said Father Gary Colton, who led the mass. “We are here to show that we are not alone in this time of crisis.”

The authorities have also announced that they are working hard to restore power, water, and communication services to the island, as well as providing shelter and assistance to those who have been displaced or injured by the fire. They have also launched an investigation into the cause and origin of the fire.

Governor David Ige has declared a state of emergency for Maui County and requested federal assistance from President Joe Biden. He has also urged the public to stay away from the affected areas and follow the instructions of the emergency officials.

“We are doing everything we can to help the people of Maui recover from this disaster,” Ige said. “We are also asking for the prayers and support of everyone in Hawaii and across the nation. We are one ohana (family), and we will get through this together.”


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