Dangerous wildfires are spreading rapidly on Maui due to very dry conditions stemming from a drought combined with powerful trade winds being squeezed across Hawaii.At least 55 people have died from the wildfires on Maui and much of the historic town of Lahaina has been “destroyed,” according to officials. A state of emergency has been declared for the whole island, while all nonessential travel to the popular vacation destination is being discouraged, officials said.The Big Island of Hawaii has also been affected by wildfires.

The winds are being caused by a strong high pressure system to the north and a strong low pressure system — Hurricane Dora — well to the south.At least 55 people have died as wildfires tear through the Hawaiian island of Maui, officials said.Two more fatalities were confirmed on Thursday night amid the active Lahaina fire, bringing the death toll to 55, according to a press release from Maui County.

A total of 19 deaths were confirmed on Thursday and 36 were confirmed on Wednesday, according to Maui County.Officials have repeatedly said that they expect the death toll to rise.
The wildfires that have devastated Maui are “likely the largest natural disaster in Hawaii’s state history,” Gov. Josh Green said during a press briefing Thursday evening.Green went on to call the wildfires “catastrophic” and said the state is seeking 2,000 hotel rooms to help the displaced people of Maui.The governor said “we will continue” seeing loss of life. At least 53 people have died from the wildfires, officials said earlier in the day.

Green also called on residents to help, saying: “If you have additional space in your home, if you have the capacity to take someone in from West Maui, please do.”After surveying the damage earlier in the day, Green estimated it will take billions of dollars and many years to rebuild Lahaina, and he estimates well over 1,000 buildings were destroyed.Officials still don’t know exactly how many people are missing, according to Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier.As a funeral director at the Nakamura Mortuary in Wailuku, Carol Chaney is no stranger to dealing with death — but usually, it’s other people’s losses.

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