It is one of the worst fire disasters in the history of the United States: According to the authorities on the island of Maui in the US state of Hawaii, forest and bush fires have killed 80 people there in the past few days, and further deaths are feared.
The small town of Lahaini was hit particularly hard, with many streets looking like a war zone. Questions are getting louder as to whether the authorities could not have reacted much better to the accident.
"There is no transparency," said professional surfer Kai Lenny in a video on Instagram. "The government doesn't tell us what's happening, so nobody knows how we can help." Lenny said he himself provided people with the bare essentials with a jet ski across the water because many roads were closed.
Evacuation ordered too late?
The civil protection agency FEMA said on Saturday that around a dozen federal agencies are busy with relief measures for the fire victims. 150 FEMA employees, including search and rescue teams, are already on Maui, with more on the way.
There was also criticism that no warning sirens were said to have been used on Maui at the beginning. The rescue work was also made more difficult by the fact that the north and south of Lahaina can only be reached via a large access road.
In the city, which had around 13,000 inhabitants before the accident, there had also been complaints that an evacuation might have been ordered too late – according to the "New York Times" on Facebook, there were reports from the authorities on Thursday that the fire be under control.
Fire chief Bradford Ventura later said at a press conference that the fires had spread surprisingly quickly and that it had previously been "almost impossible" to order evacuations quickly enough.
Emergency supplies are slow
State Gov. Josh Green acknowledged that emergency supplies are getting off to a slow start because it's difficult to bring supplies to Maui from other islands. The situation is unprecedentedly devastating. Green said he had ordered an investigation into the authorities' initially sluggish response, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, the fire brigade is still working to contain fires in various regions of the island, the Maui district government said on Saturday night. Around 2,200 buildings in the district were damaged or destroyed by the fire, according to updated figures from the Pacific Disaster Center and the US Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA. Initial estimates assume around 5.5 billion dollars (5.0 billion euros) for the reconstruction there.
In addition to the fires in western Maui, fires broke out in other regions of the island and on the neighboring island of Hawaii at the beginning of the week, which had spread quickly due to strong winds at speeds of up to 130 kilometers per hour. With an area of around 1900 square kilometers, the Hawaiian island is about half the size of the Spanish holiday island of Mallorca. According to the retail association, it is visited by around two million tourists every year.