The fires on Hawaii’s US island of Maui have claimed at least 80 lives, according to a new provisional death toll announced on Friday.
Maui County announced “12 additional deaths” as of midday, bringing the total to 80.
“There will undoubtedly be more deaths,” warned Hawaii Governor Josh Green on CNN.
The fire has all but wiped out the historic town of Lahaina, according to media reports. Survivors have just been allowed to return to the town.
President Joe Biden spoke with Governor Josh Green, the White House said on Friday. The U.S. chief executive declared a state of natural disaster in Hawaii on Thursday, which will release substantial federal aid to fund relief efforts, emergency housing and rebuilding.
Fueled by winds fueled by the force of Hurricane Dora, which is currently passing through the Pacific Ocean, the flames have taken the population by surprise: dozens of residents have thrown themselves into the sea to escape the flames, according to the Coast Guard.
These devastating fires come in the middle of a summer marked by a series of extreme weather events around the globe.
The fires spread in part because of “particularly parched” vegetation on Maui, which experienced below-average rainfall this spring and higher-than-usual temperatures, according to Thomas Smith, professor of environmental geography at the London School of Economics and Political Science.