Wildfires have ravaged the islands of Maui and Hawaii, killing at least 93 people and destroying much of the historic town of Lahaina on Maui. Thousands of residents and visitors were evacuated, and the US Coast Guard said its members rescued 14 people who jumped into the waters off Lahaina Harbor to escape the fire.
With only one major highway remaining open, 11.000 residents and visitors have been evacuated so far, with authorities confirming widespread ruin to Lahaina, its harbor, and the surrounding regions. “Lahaina, with few exceptions, has been destroyed by fire,” Hawaii Governor Josh Green said during a news conference. “Many hundreds of families have been displaced. We will rebuild.”
While efforts are currently centered on containing the ongoing fires and safeguarding lives, discussions about long-term recovery, prevention strategies, and addressing the aftermath are bound to take center stage.
1. Flight and travel information
Local officials have been encouraging people to cancel or reschedule their trips. Travel adviser Jim Bendt told CNN that clients traveling to Maui in the next week are being advised to reschedule their trips to “help ease the burden on local infrastructure.”
Major airlines, including Delta, United, Southwest and Hawaiian Airlines, have been offering additional flights to help visitors to Maui leave the island as quickly as possible, said Ed Sniffen, deputy director of highways for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, during a news conference. The county of Maui announced a mass bus evacuation to take hundreds of people to the Kahului airport or a central shelter. Nonessential inbound travel to Maui is strongly discouraged, said Sniffen during a news conference. The fires on the island of Hawaii are in the area of the Mauna Kea Resort.
Those with imminent plans to travel to the West Maui area are urged to reschedule their trip, and visitors to other parts of the island should contact their hotels, the Hawaii Office of Tourism said in an alert on its website. The tourism board advised travelers to contact their specific airlines to inquire about any flight changes, cancellations and assistance with rebooking.
2. Short-term vacation rental
“In response to the anticipated need for emergency housing due to the devastating wildfires on Maui and Hawai‘i Island this week, we suspending the short-term vacation rental 30–day minimum rental period requirement to increase the availability of temporary housing on Oʻahu,” announced Mayor Rick Blangiardi on X.
Along with the airlines assisting with evacuation efforts, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Southwest and United have travel waivers for Maui that allow passengers to change their reservations without paying penalties. Travelers on Southwest can change their departure or arrival to Hilo, Honolulu, Kona or Lihue at no additional charge through August 14th.
The recommendation is for visitors in Maui for nonessential travel to leave the island. “Visitors with travel plans to stay in other parts of Maui and the Kohala Coast of Hawaiʻi Island in the coming weeks are encouraged to contact their hotels for updated information and how their travel plans may be affected,” said the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority.
“Guests with non-urgent travel inquiries are encouraged to call back later so that we can assist those with immediate needs,” Hawaiian Airlines posted on social platform X (formerly Twitter). Travelers are being urged to check their flight status before going to the airport.
Travel advisers and officials assure that islands other than Maui remain operational and unaffected. Hotels and tours in other regions are operating as usual, offering alternative options for those seeking to avoid the impacted areas.
“It is important to note that Oahu, Lanai, and Kauai have no active fires and that the fires on the Big Island are limited to the Kohala Coast and do not impact most of the touring on the rest of the island,” said Norman Aynbinder, president and CEO of Excursionist in Miami.