The devastating fire on Maui has largely been contained, but the death toll continues to rise. So far, 55 bodies have been recovered in the burned-out coastal town of Lahaina, as the Maui district announced late Thursday evening (local time). However, it is to be feared that there will be more victims, local media reported, citing the authorities. At least 20 people were seriously injured by burns, some are in critical condition. The extinguishing work on the island continued.

After a tour of the completely burnt-out coastal town of Lahaina, Hawaii Governor Josh Green spoke of “probably the greatest natural disaster” in the history of the US state of Hawaii. Green recalled the year 1960 when a tsunami hit Hawaii. The tidal wave claimed 61 lives at the time. It is “very likely” that the death toll will be higher this time.

Some people are still missing. How many, however, is difficult to say, citing Maui’s police chief John Pelletier. This is also due to the fact that mobile communications have collapsed. In addition, according to the website, around 11,000 households are still without electricity.

In Lahaina, firefighters were able to bring about 80 percent of the fires under control by Thursday evening. The residents of the popular tourist resort with its many wooden houses are still prohibited from access because the rescue work is ongoing, it said. Additional rescue teams with cadaver dogs from California and Washington State are on their way to Maui. “None of that is there anymore. It’s all burned down,” said Lahaina Mayor Richard Bissen.

Governor Green was also shocked: “When you see the full extent of the destruction in Lahaina, it’s shocking. It looks like a bomb went off and then a fire broke out.” Virtually all buildings would have to be rebuilt. This will be in the billions of dollars. At the same time, he called on the hotels to take in the thousands of residents who had become homeless.

According to the media, six emergency shelters are currently in operation. Around 30,000 visitors have now been flown out, reported the broadcaster CNN, citing the tourism authority.

Several fires broke out on Maui and the neighboring island of Hawaii on Tuesday, which were quickly enlarged by strong winds. The flames had spread so quickly that many people tried to get to safety in the sea. According to the Coast Guard, about 100 people jumped into the water. A Coast Guard ship was able to rescue more than 50 people from the sea. “We’re still finding bodies in the water and on the boardwalk,” Kekoa Lansford, a Lahaina resident, told CBS on Thursday. “We pulled people out of the water. We’re trying to save lives, but (…) we’re not getting the help we need,” she complained.

US President Joe Biden declared a disaster on Thursday, thereby releasing federal aid to the affected areas of the Pacific archipelago. The money is intended to benefit people whose houses were destroyed or damaged by the flames. In addition, the National Guard and the Navy would support the task teams. “These wildfires and all the severe storms we keep seeing are definitely a result of rising temperatures around the world,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.