At least 36 people are dead, and many more are still unaccounted for, as fires raged across Hawaii’s Maui island through much of the last two days.
The fires started on Tuesday night and were propelled by winds from Hurricane Dora, which is traveling a few hundred miles to the island’s southwest. The fires ripped through Lahaina in particular, a major resort city, and are still burning at the end of Wednesday, according to Maui County.
The county said that it expects to conduct an assessment of the damage “at first light” on Thursday, but more than 271 structures in Lahaina have been impacted. Video from local news on Maui showed the destruction as the fires burned on Tuesday.
The latest update from the state said that multiple major roadways on Maui remain closed as a major evacuation plan for thousands of residents and visitors readies to restart on Thursday morning. "A mass bus evacuation for visitors in West Maui” will resume at 8:30 a.m. HST on Thursday.
An evacuation order for the Big Island was in place on Tuesday but was lifted as of 8 p.m. HST.
Future travel plans to Maui
In an update at 10 p.m. HST last night, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said that all visitors who are on non-essential travel to Maui are being asked to leave the island, and any non-essential travel to Maui is “strongly discouraged at this time.”
“In the days and weeks ahead, our collective resources and attention must be focused on the recovery of residents and communities that were forced to evacuate their homes and businesses," the update says.
For those who are scheduled to travel to West Maui in the coming weeks, Hawaii is encouraging them to consider rescheduling their travel plans for a later time. For those scheduled to travel elsewhere on Maui and the Mauna Kea Resort area of Hawaii Island in the coming weeks, Hawaii Tourism is alerting them to contact their hotels for updates.
Travel to islands outside of Maui, including Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, and other parts of Hawaii Island, is not affected at this time. Officials from Oahu told CNN Thursday morning that hotels on that island and on Waikiki are doing what they can to accommodate future travelers who are unable to go to Maui because of the fires.
For right now, the Kahului Airport on Maui remains open and has throughout the crisis, particularly as a hub for essential travel into the island, and for evacuations of some residents. All travelers, whether they are residents or visitors, should check with their airline before heading to the airport.
Many airlines are providing additional flights to help get visitors out of Maui, and others are adjusting their schedules and publishing change fee waivers for those who want to alter future trips.
That includes Hawaiian Airlines, the state’s flag carrier which has a secondary hub at Kahului. Hawaiian said on Wednesday that it would allow guests with flights scheduled through Aug. 10 to change to new dates at no additional cost and with the fare difference waived. Travel must be rebooked by Aug. 17 and must recommence by Aug. 31.
Hawaiian is also allowing guests to cancel and get a travel credit towards a new ticket that expires 1 year from the original date of purchase.
It also includes Southwest Airlines, which issued its own waiver for those flying to, from, or through Kahului through Aug. 11. Those guests are able to alter plans and rebook with no additional charges. Southwest is also allowing travelers to change their departure or arrival to any of its other Hawaiian airports, including Hilo, Honolulu, Kona, and Lihue.
Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have also issued their own change fee waivers to allow for flexibility for those scheduled to travel to Maui through at least Wednesday. All of those are giving guests the option to reschedule for travel at a different time.
One of Lahaina’s most popular hotels, the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, said on Tuesday that it is closed for the safety of its guests and its crew.
“At this time, we can confirm the hotel is closed to arrivals and not accepting guests through 08/11/2023. Any deposits and prepayments for canceled stays on these dates, including prepaid rates, will be refunded,” it said, adding that it is working to assess the “level of impact” that the fires had on the property.
According to social media statements, the hotel also hosted some displaced families at its property on Wednesday.
Marriott Bonvoy has issued a warning on the websites for its properties in Maui, including the popular Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club, and The Westin Ka‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas. It says the hotels are sheltering in place and urges incoming guests “to evaluate flying into Maui over the next few days until more information is available as to evacuation status, power grid, infrastructure, and resort access.”
Some hotels in the town of Lahaina have burned down, including the historic Best Western Pioneer Inn, while hotels in the Kaanapali resort area have remained unscathed, according to reports from the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of the Best Western Pioneer Inn, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii on August 9," Best Western said in a statement. "All hotel guests and staff were safely evacuated. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to emergency personnel for their exceptional support. Our hearts are with our guests, associates, and the entire Hawaii community during this time of immense challenge."
Cruise line updates
For the immediate future, only Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line have scheduled calls to Hawaii over the next two weeks.
The call by Emerald Princess, which was scheduled for Lahaina on Monday, Aug. 14, has been canceled.
"Given the severity of these fires and their significant strain on local resources, Emerald Princess will cancel her scheduled call to Maui (Lahaina) on Monday, August 14, and will instead call to Kona," a spokesperson for the line said. "As we continue to monitor the situation, we are actively reviewing the itineraries of our upcoming voyages. If any adjustments need to be made to our published itineraries, we will advise guests and our Travel Advisor partners."
In a statement to TMR, a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line said that it currently has no impacted itineraries.
“We are deeply saddened to hear about the wildfires currently impacting the town of Lahaina in Maui. We have a very special relationship with the people and island of Hawaii, as we sail to the beautiful island chain year-round. It is a magical destination and one that is highly sought out by our guests for its natural beauty, culture, and unparalleled experiences," the spokesperson said.
"We are closely monitoring the situation, which is on the west side of the island, opposite to the Kahului Harbor where we call. At this time, there is no impact to our scheduled itineraries. As always, our top priority is the safety and security of our guests and crew. We will communicate further updates as appropriate."