Some Canadians vacationing in Hawaii saw their flight home with Air Canada cancelled, as parts of the island of Maui were being scorched by a devastating wildfire.
A statement from the air carrier said the most recent scheduled flight from Maui to Vancouver was cancelled as access to the airport was closed. It also said a larger, and empty, plane lifted off from Vancouver Wednesday evening, bound for the island, to pick up the stranded passengers and those booked on the next regularly scheduled flight.
The company added that it is continuing to monitor the situation, with regular daily flights between Vancouver and Maui still scheduled. It is also putting in place a flexible rebooking policy for passengers travelling to and from Maui.
The wildfires continued to burn as night set in for Hawaiians, fanned by strong winds from Hurricane Dora, which is at sea south of the island chain.
Officials with Maui County say at least 36 people have been killed, dozens more wounded, and more than 270 structures were damaged or destroyed.
It is feared that more deaths will be confirmed when the flames die down.
Wildfires fanned by winds from a far-off hurricane have forced thousands to flee as flames engulfed the historic town of Lahaina.
More than 2,100 people spent the night in four emergency shelters, while travelers from canceled or arriving flights sheltered at Kahului Airport. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued people from the waters off Lahaina.
Lahaina, capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom during the 1800s, lies on Maui’s dry, western side, which is more susceptible to fires. A red flag warning is in place as a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and high temperatures contribute to extreme fire behavior, according to a statement on the website of Maui County.
Extreme weather has battered the Northern Hemisphere this summer, as climate change increases the intensity of heat waves while bringing fires, floods and violent storms. Wildfires in Canada burned an area roughly the size of Iceland, while those in Greece forced thousands of tourists to flee the island of Rhodes. Firefighters in Portugal have contained a huge blaze that triggered the evacuation of several villages.
The Maui County government warned no traffic would be allowed into West Maui except emergency personnel. Acting Governor Sylvia Luke activated the National Guard to deal with multiple wildfires now burning in the state.
“Much of Lahaina on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced,” Governor Josh Green said in a press release, adding he would immediately return to Hawaii from personal travel to deal with the crisis.
Photos posted online Wednesday appeared to show flames engulfing businesses that line Lahaina’s Front Street, a tourist magnet packed with restaurants and small shops.
The flames were being fed by strong winds driven by Hurricane Dora, passing south of the islands. About 12,600 homes and businesses were without power at 10 a.m. local time, according to poweroutage.us. Lahaina also were without phone service, either landline or cellphone, according to Maui County.