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Airlines help amidst wildfires in Hawaii by sending empty planes to evacuate trapped people

More than 11,000 people were able to fly out of Maui, with many more leaving soon. Rescue efforts are ongoing in Olinda and Kula, where fires have burned over 1,100 acres.

Airlines help amidst wildfires in Hawaii by sending empty planes to evacuate trapped people
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Zett Foto

Airlines are stepping in to assist in the evacuation of thousands of tourists trapped in Hawaii by the ongoing wildfires caused by land and atmospheric conditions. According to Time Magazine, more than 11,000 people were able to fly out of Maui, with many more leaving soon. Approximately 2,100 people are currently housed in three Maui shelters that have opened as a result of the fire. Rescue efforts are ongoing in Olinda and Kula, where fires have burned over 1,100 acres.

According to the County of Maui, vacationers were being bused to the island's main airport in Kahului, but the influx of unplanned flyers has made it difficult for many to return home. In response to the emergency, United Airlines is sending empty planes to the island to aid in the evacuation of visitors.



 

The airlines told PEOPLE in a statement, "We’ve canceled today’s inbound flights to Kahului Airport so our planes can fly empty to Maui and be used as passenger flights back to the mainland." Due to the extenuating circumstances, American, United, Delta and Hawaiian Airlines, among others, have reportedly dropped various fees associated with cancellations and rebooking.

American Airlines is reportedly operating scheduled inbound and outbound flights as planned but has added an extra outbound flight (Kahului to Phoenix) and sized up the plane for another to help get more passengers out quickly. Operations are being continued out of Kahului by Delta as well. Delta states it is "ending supplies to aid our employees and customers on the ground while evaluating how we can best further these efforts." 



 

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is also advising current Maui vacationers to leave and anyone planning non-essential travel to the area in the near future not to come. The organization said in a statement, "While Kahului Airport on Maui remains open at this time, residents and visitors with travel bookings are encouraged to check with their airline for any flight changes or cancellations, or for assistance with rebooking. 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. Visitors who have travel plans to West Maui in the coming weeks are encouraged to consider rescheduling their travel plans for a later time."

In a Facebook update, the Maui Fire Department said that at least 36 people have died as a result of the Maui wildfires, with three separate fires burning uncontrollably across the Hawaiian island. It also stated that there had been no significant changes to the three fires, which were located in Lahaina, Upcountry and the Plehu/Khei areas. Visitors to the Sheraton Maui Resort in Ka'anapali were evacuated in large numbers late Wednesday. Bus evacuations for visitors will resume Thursday at a Lahaina location and time to be announced, according to county transportation officials. As firefighting efforts continue, access to Lahaina remains restricted. Thirty US Army personnel have arrived and are conducting search and recovery operations.



 

As part of the state's emergency response, National Guard helicopters were also activated. Business owner Alan Dickar spoke to CBS and said, "Maui can't handle this. A lot of people just lost their jobs because a lot of businesses burned. A lot of people lost their homes. This is going to be devastating for Maui." 



 

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