The Associated Press reported Wednesday that people in Maui who drove around a road barricade blocking the lone paved road from Lahaina as fires raged earlier this month survived, while those who obeyed perished in their cars or fled to the nearby ocean. The road had been reportedly closed due to downed powerlines.
A satellite photo taken the night of the fire shows nearly all of Lahaina ablaze.
A video report posted by CBS News last week offers a rare on the ground glimpse into the grim reality on Front Street (warning, graphic):
The opening paragraphs of the deeply reported AP article followed by one woman’s tale of disobeying the government to survive:
As flames tore through a West Maui neighborhood, car after car of fleeing residents headed for the only paved road out of town in a desperate race for safety.
And car after car was turned back toward the rapidly spreading wildfire by a barricade blocking access to Highway 30.
One family swerved around the barricade and was safe in a nearby town 48 minutes later, another drove their 4-wheel-drive car down a dirt road to escape. One man took an dirt road uphill, climbing above the fire and watching as Lahaina burned. He later picked his way through the flames, smoke and rubble to pull survivors to safety.
But dozens of others found themselves caught in a hellscape, their cars jammed together on a narrow road, surrounded by flames on three sides and the rocky ocean waves on the fourth. Some died in their cars, while others tried to run for safety.
,,,Kim Cuevas-Reyes narrowly escapes with her 12- and 15-year-old by ignoring instructions to turn right on Front Street toward Lahaina’s Civic Center, which earlier in the day had been turned into a shelter for refugees. Instead, she takes a left, driving in the wrong lane to pass a stack of cars heading in the other direction.
“The gridlock would have left us there when the firestorm came,” said Cuevas-Reyes, 38. “I would have had to tell my children to jump into the ocean as well and be boiled alive by the flames or we would have just died from smoke inhalation and roasted in the car.”
The AP article has a very informative interactive timeline of the fire along with other survivor’s tales of not following orders to survive.
The Los Angeles Times also published an interactive timeline on the fire.
The AP article concludes with a survivor’s grief about not the government not issuing a warning that might have given him time to save his neighbors’ children:
Baird’s neighborhood near Lahainaluna Road was filled with kids who were home alone when the flames hit, he said.
“We needed like 10 more minutes, and we could have saved a lot of kids,” he said, choking back tears. “If we’d just had like a 10- or 15-minute warning.”
The family ventured out to a Kahului mall recently, looking for a moment of normalcy in the aftermath of the tragedy. They ran into a playmate of their son.
“The kids just don’t have a filter. So their son ran up and was just telling our son, you know, ‘This kid is dead. This kid is dead.’ And it’s like, all my son’s friends that they come to our house every day,” he said. “And their parents were at work, and they were home alone. And nobody had a warning. Nobody, nobody, nobody knew.”
The government refuses to say how many children were killed in the fire. The only reports are over one hundred people killed and about 1000 missing. Over 2000 homes, apartment buildings and other structures were destroyed.
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