The death toll from the Hawaii wildfire in Maui’s Lahaina town has reached 55, with 80% of the town decimated, making it the deadliest wildfire in US history, with hundreds of firefighters on the ground battling the fire. The fire started on Hawaii’s Maui island on Tuesday and was fueled by winds from a nearby hurricane. According to authorities, the fire moved so quickly that many people were unable to escape, becoming trapped in the streets or drowning in the ocean. “This time, it’s very likely that our death totals will significantly exceed that,” the Governor noted. “It really looks like somebody came along and just bombed the whole town. It’s completely devastated,” said Canadian Brandon Wilson, who had travelled to Hawaii. “It was really hard to see,” he said. “You feel so bad for people. They lost their homes, their lives, their livelihoods.” The fires follow other extreme weather events in North America this summer, with record-breaking wildfires still burning across Canada and a major heat wave baking the US southwest. Europe and parts of Asia have also endured soaring temperatures, with major fires and floods wreaking havoc. The burned skeletons of trees still stand, rising above the ashes of the buildings to which they once offered shelter. Green said 80% of the town was gone. “Buildings that we’ve all enjoyed and celebrated together for decades, for generations, are completely destroyed,” he said. Thousands have been left homeless and Green said a massive operation was swinging into action to find accommodation. “We are going to need to house thousands of people,” he told a press conference. “That will mean reaching out to all of our hotels and those in the community to ask people to rent extra rooms at their property.” President Joe Biden on Thursday declared the fires a “major disaster” and unblocked federal aid for relief efforts, with rebuilding expected to take years. People jumped into ocean in Lahaina US Coast Guard commander Aja Kirksey told CNN around 100 people were believed to have jumped into the water in a desperate effort to flee the fast-moving flames as they tore through Lahaina. Kirksey said helicopter pilots struggled to see because of dense smoke, but that a Coast Guard vessel had been able to rescue more than 50 people from the water. “It was a really rapidly developing scene and pretty harrowing for the victims that had to jump into the water,” she added. For resident Kekoa Lansford, the horror was far from over. “We still get dead bodies in the water floating and on the seawall,” Lansford told CBS News. “We have been pulling people out… We’re trying to save people’s lives, and I feel like we are not getting the help we need.” Green said around 1,700 buildings were believed to have been affected by the blaze. “With lives lost and properties decimated, we are grieving with each other during this inconsolable time,” Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said. “In the days ahead, we will be stronger as a… community,” he added, “as we rebuild with resilience and aloha.” Mass evacuation from Maui’s Lahaina Thousands of people have already been evacuated from Maui, with 1,400 people waiting at the main airport in Kahului overnight, hoping to get out. Maui County has asked visitors to leave “as soon as possible,” and organised buses to move evacuees from shelters to the airport. The island hosts around a third of all the visitors who holiday in the state, and their dollars are vital for the local economy. At the airport in Kahului, Lorraina Peterson said she had been stuck for days without food or power, and was now looking at a lengthy wait for a flight. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to get a hotel room, or we’ll have to sleep here on the floor,” she said. With a hurricane passing to the south of Hawaii, high winds fueled flames that consumed dry vegetation. Thomas Smith, a professor with the London School of Economics, said that while wildfires are not uncommon in Hawaii, the blazes this year “are burning a greater area than usual, and the fire behaviour is extreme, with fast spread rates and large flames.” As global temperatures rise over time, heat waves are projected to become more frequent, with increased dryness due to changing rainfall patterns creating ideal conditions for bush or forest fires.