As flames engulfed the idyllic Hawaiian town of Lahaina, survivors recounted harrowing tales of escape and loss. Ekolu Brayden Hoapili and his girlfriend, who managed to flee the blazing destruction by car, described the nightmarish scene as “everything is just red” and recounted the heart-wrenching decision to leave their hometown behind.
Hoapili, 18, shared his experience, “It’s all dust and wind. As strong as hell.” The couple, now living out of their car, saw the town they once called home consumed by the inferno. “I look towards the gas station and there’s a fire right there… stuff going up in flames. And I’m like: ‘We gotta go.'”
Amidst the overwhelming relief of survival, Hoapili expressed regret, “I felt powerless… I couldn’t help nobody.” His girlfriend, Sharmaiynne Buduan, 20, added, “The memories I had there… seeing all these pictures and videos of my hometown just gone, everything… It breaks my heart.”
Lahaina, with a population of 12,000 and a popular tourist destination, has been ravaged by the fast-moving flames. The town’s iconic souvenir shops, restaurants, bars, and historic structures have been reduced to ashes, leaving behind a ghostly landscape. Sarai Cruz, 28, who worked at one of Front Street’s renowned restaurants, recalled the terrifying speed of the fire’s approach, “We saw the black smoke coming into our house… We got in the car and we were able to see the flames from our neighbor’s house, burning already.”
Jose Victoria, 35, now sheltered with his family, displayed images of his razed home. “It’s just like, nothing. I lost my home, all my papers, everything… my passport or IDs, nothing.”
“As the Hawaiian community and the world grapple with the aftermath of this devastating wildfire, the survivors’ stories serve as a poignant reminder of the fragile nature of life and the indomitable human spirit in the face of tragedy”.