每日英語跟讀 Ep.K629: Tragic Wildfires Ravage Maui, Leaving Destruction and Questions
In a devastating turn of events, the Hawaiian island of Maui has been struck by deadly wildfires, claiming the lives of at least 55 people and obliterating a historic town. The tragedy has raised concerns over the efficiency of the state's warning systems, as many residents received inadequate alerts, leaving them little time to react to the raging fires.
Hawaii's emergency management system, which boasts a network of around 400 sirens, was unable to prevent the catastrophe. The records show that warning sirens remained silent, and instead, alerts were dispatched to mobile devices, televisions, and radio stations. However, these alerts were hampered by widespread power and cellular outages, limiting their reach and effectiveness.
Survivors recount their experiences, revealing a lack of prior warning, with many realizing the danger only when flames engulfed their surroundings or explosions echoed nearby. This tragedy marks Hawaii's deadliest natural disaster since a devastating tsunami struck the region in 1960, leaving Governor Josh Green to fear that the death toll could rise further as search and rescue operations continue.
The situation is exemplified by the story of Thomas Leonard, a 70-year-old retired mailman from the historic town of Lahaina. The absence of real-time information due to power and cell phone outages left him unaware of the fire until he smelled the smoke. As he attempted to escape, he had to abandon his vehicle and flee on foot amidst exploding cars. Hours of harrowing sheltering behind a seawall followed, with ash and cinders swirling around him. Eventually, firefighters arrived to lead him and other survivors to safety.
The fires were fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, resulting in multiple wildfires igniting across Maui. One of the most severe blazes transformed Lahaina into a scene of devastation, reducing it to rubble and ashes. The aftermath saw charred remains of buildings and torched palm trees, leaving an eerie landscape between the ocean and lush greenery.
Despite boasting an extensive emergency warning infrastructure, the quick and unpredictable nature of the fires overwhelmed the response efforts. Maui County's hazard mitigation plan, recognizing the area's wildfire risk, cited the high number of households without vehicles and non-English speakers, which hindered timely alerts and swift actions during crises.
Compounding the issue, the Maui Fire Department's limited staff and resources presented challenges in controlling the fires. With just 65 firefighters managing three islands and without off-road vehicles, containing the fires before they reached populated areas proved difficult. Hurricane Dora's fierce winds further complicated firefighting efforts, resembling a battle against a relentless blowtorch.
In response to this tragedy, President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Maui, promising swift assistance to those affected. As the island grapples with the aftermath of these wildfires, questions arise about the adequacy of warning systems, the importance of community preparedness, and the need for bolstered firefighting resources to prevent such devastating incidents in the future.
Reference article: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/08/10/fires-burn-through-hawaii-at-least-36-people-have-died-on-maui.html