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‘Like volcanoes erupting’: Massachusetts woman on Hawaii trip describes devastating wildfires


By Russ Reed, John Atwater

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    BOSTON (WCVB) — Dozens of people have died and towns have been reduced to ash as flames devoured two Hawaiian islands and continue to threaten the people on them.

Several fires erupted on the islands of Maui and Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, on Tuesday and have been fueled by incredibly strong winds, low humidity and dry vegetation.

At least 36 people have died in the Lahaina fire in Hawaii, Maui County wrote in a statement posted to the county website Wednesday evening.

The devastation on Maui stretches miles, as people desperately raced to escape the raging fires as flames tore through Lahaina. Some people even had to run into the ocean in order to escape the inferno.

“I was the last one to get off the dock when the firestorm came through the banyan tree and took everything with it,” said Dustin Johnson.

Nicole Nagata, of Massachusetts, said her family arrived in Maui on a flight from Boston Tuesday night. Their happiness quickly turned to horror when they saw the frightening fires as their plane was landing.

“It looked like volcanoes erupting, and you could just see the fires blazing,” Nagata said. “Entire communities just vanished and it’s just such a tragedy.”

Nagata said the family members she is visiting in Maui are safe and now helping friends who were forced out of their homes.

“People have lost everything. Their homes are now ashes. There are families with nothing,” she said.

More than a thousand people have been evacuated as the fires have destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses. The fires were still burning as of late Wednesday night on the East Coast.

“Our hearts are absolutely shattered for the people that lost everything — and lives lost, too,” Nagata said. “I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is.”

The Hawaiian islands could see wind gusts as strong as 30 mph on Thursday.

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