'Looks like Baghdad': Pilot captures aerial footage of 'unbelievable' Maui wildfire devastation
Dozens of wildfires triggered by Category 4 Hurricane Dora, drought conditions, and scorching temperatures have engulfed the Hawaiian island of Maui, with its largest city Lāhainā bearing much of the devastation. At least six people are confirmed dead and thousands more have been forced to evacuate, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said.
Dora "contributed to heavy wind gusts above 60 miles per hour that tore through Maui overnight, knocking out power lines and damaging homes. National Guard helicopters activated as part of the state's emergency response to the wildfires were grounded as the wind gusts picked up on Tuesday evening," CBS News correspondent Amy Mae Czachor reported on Wednesday. "The National Weather Service forecast that dangerous wildfire conditions would persist through Wednesday afternoon due to a combination of strong winds and low humidity. As the agency's Honolulu branch noted in tweet Sunday, significant differences in atmospheric pressure between the hurricane and the air north of Hawaii, formed a pressure gradient over the islands which, when combined with dry conditions, posed a serious threat of fires as well as damaging winds."
Czachor noted that Acting Governor Sylvia Luke (D) issued an emergency declaration on Tuesday, which activated the National Guard and included a warning from Luke to avoid "non-essential air travel to Maui."
Meanwhile, Governor Josh Green (D) said in a statement on Wednesday that "We have suffered a terrible disaster" and that "much of Lāhainā on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced."
In addition to extreme heat that has been attributed to anthropromorphic climate change, Benji Jones of Vox News explained, "humans introduced a variety of nonnative grasses to the state, such as guinea grass, which is often used as feed for livestock. These plants are known to outcompete native grasses, and they grow incredibly quickly after rainfall, which can produce an enormous amount of fuel for wildfires."
The immense scale of the disaster was captured by helicopter pilot Richard Olsten, the director of operations at Air Maui Helicopter Tours, who was flying over burning Maui Harbor. Olsten posted a video to Facebook, remarking, "Oh my gosh, look at the harbor. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Unbelievable. Just looks like Baghdad or something."
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