Fire levels the historic town of Lahaina, Hawaii

Destruction and death in the town of Lahiana in Hawaii. (All Photos by Philip Cheung of the New York Times. (Used with permission)

Sadness in our home thiS weekend over the devastating fires and storms that hve struck the Hawaiian islands, particularly Maui and the historic town of Lahaina, rich in Hawaiian history.

We have visited to Hawaii several times our lives, both for vacations and as part of my work. Our last trip in 1998 was two weeks on the pineapple island of Lanai, where we stayed one week in the inland lodge and a second week on the beach. with a couple boat trips over to Lahaina for dinner, shopping and sight seeing. Lanai was a beautiful island with black sand beaches, the shipwreck row, red clay soil and mountains.

On Lanai, we used a rental pickup to take the Munro trail up into the mounatains, where a sudden thunderstorm flooded the road, with the truck getting stuck and had to walk about 10 miles back to the hotel. The hotel was gracious, sent a full trya of snacks to our room. I told them the storm had left deep ruts n the red clay trail but they thought they could send a crew up the mountian and retrieve the vehicle but their two got stuck and they had to hike back, cling the trail fo several days.

When we transferred down to the beachfront hotel two days later, the lady at the front desk said: “Oh, your the ones who closed the Munro Trail.

Our trips to Hawaii gave us many pleasant memories but knowing the town has, in the words of town and state officials, “burned to the ground,” with historic buildings, fascinating gallaries and fantastic restaurants destroyed and and a rising death toll worries us about the safety of friends we made there. We are still trying to reach them.

Writes Mike Baker in The New York Times:

Along the empty streets of Lahaina, the warped shells of vehicles sit as if frozen in time, some of them still in the middle of the road, pointed toward escapes that were cut short. Others stand in driveways next to houses that are now piles of ash, many still smoldering with acrid smoke.

A few agitated myna birds chirp from their perches on palm trees that have been singed into matchsticks, the carcasses of other birds and several cats scattered below them in the streets.

Across the town that was once home to 13,000 people, residents are slowly returning and sifting through the debris of their homes, some of them in tears, finding little to salvage.

In a neighborhood along the burned hillside, Shelly and Avi Ronen were searching the rubble of their home for a safe that held $50,000 of savings, left behind with the rest of their belongings when they fled the fire. They considered themselves lucky to have made it out at all: A man just up the hill did not survive, and neighbors told them that several children who had ventured outside to get a look when the fire was approaching were now missing.

With more than 60 deaths and massive destruction, Lahaina now faces the struggle to rebuild.

One of our other favorite islands to visit, The Big Island with the state’s active volcanos, was struck with eruptions, lava flows, sinkholes less than a year and people we know there lost their homes and a favorite hotel we stayed at was extensively damaged and yet to re-open.

The world’s fragile climate is failing and bringing deatn and destruction that many scientiest say will get worse and more dangerous. We no longer travel but we are still feeling the stress of climate change with increasing storms, harsh temperatures and more tornados and threats.

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