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Maui resident and his family had ‘minutes to escape’ home as town was 'burnt to ash’

Maui resident and his family had ‘minutes to escape’ home as town was 'burnt to ash’

The death toll following the Hawaii wildfires is now at 53 people

A Maui resident and his family had just 'minutes to escape' their home as their Hawaii town was 'burnt to ash'.

At least 53 people have died and dozens more injured after wildfires tore through the town of Lahaina in Maui County.

Homes and businesses were completely destroyed by the blaze with few buildings left standing.

Adults and children dove into the ocean for safety after fleeing their homes and Hawaii’s governor has said this is ‘likely the largest disaster in state history’.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said in the most recent press conference that the death toll is now at 53 with approximately 1,000 people still missing.

A resident in Maui told NBC’s Today show that everyone he knows has lost their homes as a result of this disaster.

Homes are destroyed by the blaze.
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Dustin Kaleipou said: “Every single person that I work with, the people that I see at the bank, the grocery store, everyone I know is now homeless.

“In 36 hours our town has been burnt to ash. There’s nothing left.”

He explained he and his family members had to quickly evacuate the town of Lahaina when the rapidly-moving flames got closer on Tuesday.

Within an hour, it went from thick smoke to the sounds of explosions at the gas station around the block to their neighbour’s yard being on fire.

Kaleipou said: “And we had minutes to escape because an hour later, we would find that our home had burned completely to the ground.”

He added: “I can say everything in Lahaina is gone.”

The Police Chief says around 1,000 people are missing.
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

The man fled with his grandfather, before being reunited with his brother and mother on the other side of the island.

“That is when we learned our house was gone. My mom’s house was gone. My brother’s house was gone. Everything was set ablaze."

Due to phone service and 911 service now being down in areas of the island, Kaleipou says he’s still not able to get in contact with many extended family members.

While he’s aware the island is referred to by tourists as a holiday destination, a ‘tropical paradise', Kaleipou reminded viewers on the Today show: “This is our home. This is a home to so many people and in many of these homes were multi-generational families.”

At the time of his interview, the death toll was reported as 36.

Kaleipou told CNN: "So many people have gone missing. I will say that that is an unspoken fact that the death toll is way higher than 36.

"And we just hope that it is not confirmed to be, like I said, too much higher than that number. But there was a mass casualty event that happened this week."

Featured Image Credit: Today/PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Topics: Hawaii, World News, US News, News