Wildfire destruction in Lahaina, as seen during the governor's tour of the town on Thursday, August 10. (Photo courtesy the Office of the Governor, State of Hawai‘i)
New photos of the deadly Maui wildfires aftermath show widespread devastation that "will shock you," Hawaii’s governor said.
The Hawaii governor’s office released the photos Friday as officials and residents assessed the unthinkable destruction. Fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, at least three wildfires erupted on Maui this week, racing through parched brush covering the island.
The fires killed at least 55 people and wiped out the historic seaside town of Lahaina. As many as 1,000 people may be missing, officials said.
"We’re talking about the largest natural disaster of this generation in Hawaii," Gov. Josh Green said.
Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. surveyed the damage in Lahaina on Thursday and said it doesn't resemble the place he knew growing up.
"The closest thing I think I can compare it to is perhaps a war zone, or maybe a bomb went off," he told ABC’s "Good Morning America" on Friday. "It was cars in the street, doors open, melted to the ground. Most structures no longer exist. And from blocks and blocks of this."
Green warned that the death toll would likely rise as search and rescue operations continue. Cadaver-sniffing dogs were brought in Friday to assist the search for the remains of people killed by the inferno, said Bissen.
Maui fire latest
Authorities are still working to evacuate people from Maui as firefighters work to contain the wildfires and put out flare-ups.
The county of Maui said early Friday that 14,900 visitors left Maui by air on Thursday.
Airlines added additional flights to accommodate visitors leaving the island. The county asked visitors who want to leave to book a flight with an airline, advising that they can book flights to Honolulu and continue on another flight to their destination.
Officials are strongly discouraging nonessential travel to Maui. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency called on residents and visitors to suspend unnecessary travel to the island to make space for first responders and volunteers heading there to help residents.
Visitors on nonessential travel were being asked to leave the island, according to the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority. People who plan to visit West Maui in the coming weeks were encouraged to consider rescheduling those plans, the authority said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.