Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Hawaii to build evacuation routes on Maui after deadly wildfires

By 37ci3 Feb14,2024


Hawaii officials released maps Tuesday showing new evacuation routes that will be built to avoid obstacles that have trapped people in Lahaina, Hawaii. burning neighborhoods during Wildfires on Maui.

In the Kelawea Mauka neighborhood, an opening will be created in the sound wall to provide emergency vehicle access and more access to the main thoroughfare, the Lahaina Bypass, according to the state Department of Transportation. A sound wall is currently used to minimize traffic noise on the bypass.

The route will also be built up Lahainaluna Road, a popular thoroughfare that was closed by debris, fleeing residents and fire trucks during the Aug. 8 wildfires that killed 101 people in west Maui, transportation officials said.

New evacuation routes will help traffic flow in and out of Lahaina.
New evacuation routes will help traffic flow in and out of Lahaina.Hawaii Department of Transportation

Gov. Josh Green’s office said an emergency access route for several area schools about 2.5 miles from the Lahainaluna fire lane to the Lahaina Bypass was already open in October.

A second phase is under construction to create more access points near the bypass, he added.

There are only two main roads leading out of Lahaina, and because of how close it is to the wind-driven fire, a detour was unavailable, prompting people to jump into the Pacific Ocean to escape the raging flames.

When downed trees and other debris turned Lahaina’s narrow streets into fiery death traps, reaching Lahainaluna Road was nearly impossible, dozens of residents said in interviews.

“You couldn’t wait for the police to evacuate you,” Lahaina resident Andrea Pekelo said.

Initial plans include opening a sound barrier to reduce traffic noise.
Initial plans include opening a sound barrier to reduce traffic noise.Hawaii Department of Transportation

The new evacuation routes are part of a broader effort to make Lahaina more resilient to wildfires. increasing danger Throughout Hawaii.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation declined to say why the Kelawea Mauka neighborhood was contacted first or why more evacuation routes from the neighborhood weren’t established sooner.

A gateway is planned for the Kelawea Mauka neighborhood.
A gateway is planned for the Kelawea Mauka neighborhood.Hawaii Department of Transportation

When flames threatened to engulf Kelawea Mauka in August, panicked residents had few options for escape.

Pekelo said he was stuck in a choke point while trying to escape from his home near the wall of sound. She was packing some of her things and providing for her three dogs and guinea pig when she heard a police siren outside her house.

“Now get out,” he recalled an officer saying.

He threw a few things into his car and backed out of the driveway, but he couldn’t drive away. The streets surrounding his home on Kanakea Loop were filled with dozens of fleeing neighbors. Four houses collapsed, one house was engulfed in flames.

Pekelo saw people rushing to their cars with suitcases and trying to get to Lahainaluna Road, which connects the narrow streets to the highway outside the city. The neighbor stood with a hose in his hand and watered the passing cars so that they wouldn’t burn.

Pekelo tried to leave his neighborhood through a nearby unit, but homes were already burning and a fire truck blocked access to Lahainaluna Road.

Plans also include adding an access route to points south of Lahaina.
Plans also include adding an access route to points south of Lahaina.Hawaii Department of Transportation

After posting a video on her Instagram account, she panicked and thought about running away from the fire. Months later, he said, it might have been the last thing he wrote.

Instead, Pekelo’s uncle, who lives nearby, helped three other neighbors and a police officer tear down a fence blocking access to the popular park. After the fence came down, Pekelo said, his car was the fourth car to cross the dirt and grass to safety.

“We try not to talk about it,” she said, sitting outside her home, which survived a fire last fall.

Moment NBC News analysis He found that the largest concentration of deaths occurred in Lahaina’s Kuhua Camp neighborhood, just three blocks from Pekelo’s home. The neighborhood was once temporary housing for sugar cane workers, including Pekelo’s grandfather, and for more than a century, it has become a narrow patchwork of houses on narrow streets filled with dozens of cars that make commuting difficult on a typical day.

Dozens of residents detailed narrow escapes similar to Pekelo’s. They all talked about not being able to access the main roads due to traffic and destruction.

After NBC News published its analysis, the Maui County Sheriff’s Office released a statement draft report with information on where fire victims died. A map of the county shows about 50 deaths in or around the Kuhua camp.



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By 37ci3

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