Evacuation orders are in place across parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui and at least six people are dead after "unprecedented wildfires" ripped through the popular holiday destination.
The emergency was sparked when wildfire flames were fanned by the strong winds of a distant hurricane.
Video shared on social media overnight shows out-of-control wildfires raging near homes and restaurants at Lahaina Town, a popular tourist area. Images show beaches lined with palm trees and resorts now a charred hellscape.
Both locals and tourists have been impacted, with more than 14,500 people on the island left without power on Wednesday and some people driven into the ocean to escape. Homes have been destroyed and there are fears the number of fatalities could rise.
At least two children are believed to have been among the 14 rescued by the Coast Guard. Maui County confirmed residents had entered the ocean because of the smoke and fire conditions and were transported to a safe area.
Fires are also burning on the Big Island but its mayor said Maui should be the focus of the emergency response because the situation there is worse.
Maui fires in short:
Six people dead.
Hospitals treating the injured.
Tourist strip destroyed.
Emergency proclamation in place.
At least 13 evacuations due to three fires.
14 people rescued from the ocean.
Tourists describe escaping Maui bushfires
Newlyweds Jolie and Connor Campbell spoke to Reuters at Kahului Airport on the island’s northeast coast after leaving their hotel.
“We just saw a huge cloud of smoke… our tour driver or tour guide, he didn't know what to do,” Connor said. “So we were like approaching it, and then we started to get an Amber Alert saying to evacuate.”
Hawaii fires follow record-breaking temperatures
The sudden tourist evacuations across Hawaii come just three weeks after thousands of tourists were evacuated from the islands of Rhodes and Corfu.
As fires burned across the Mediterranean, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Earth has entered an "era of global boiling”.
On Tuesday, Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service confirmed global average sea and ocean temperatures had reached record highs.
July’s global average temperature was the highest on record.
It was 0.72 degrees warmer than the 1991-2020 average for the month.
The temperature was 1.5 degrees warmer than the average for 1850-1900.
Extremely dangerous wildfire situation is ongoing in West Maui as strong winds up to 60 mph are pushing flames toward populated areas in and around Lahaina.
— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) August 9, 2023
Australia continuing to expand fossil fuel projects despite warnings
Scientists continue to repeat warnings that extreme weather events will become more severe and frequent due to the ongoing burning of fossil fuels.
Countries like Australia are continuing to approve the expansion of fossil fuel projects, despite warnings from the United Nations that doing so will stop the world from reaching its global heating targets. After a hot, dry winter, the country is expected to face its most dangerous weather conditions since the devastating Black Summer bushfires in 2019/2022.
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