Maui fire survivors say authorities blocked only paved road out of Lahaina as town burned

Survivors of the Maui fire that swept through the town of Lahaina said the only paved road out was barricaded by authorities as flames overcame the town, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said during a news conference that residents were not prevented from fleeing Lahaina, but accounts from some of the survivors suggest they were hindered from making a quick escape because of the decision to close the Honoapiilani Highway and a bypass at the south end of town.

Witnesses who survived the blaze said that traffic quickly backed up as residents attempted to flee to the south, but the road was blocked as a crew worked on downed power lines. One family ignored the barricade and swerved past the cones placed in the road, making it safely to another town nearly an hour later.

A woman and her 3-year-old daughter escaped the burning town by driving her four-wheel-drive vehicle on a dirt road to a friend’s house in a neighboring town, the AP reported. A mother with her two young children said she escaped the gridlock by ignoring traffic instructions and driving on the wrong side of the road to pass a long line of cars.

“The gridlock would have left us there when the firestorm came,” 38-year-old Kim Cuevas-Reyes said. “I would have had to tell my children to jump into the ocean as well and be boiled alive by the flames or we would have just died from smoke inhalation and roasted in the car.”

The road leading out of Lahaina to the south did not open until 5:20 p.m., according to Maui County, nearly two hours after residents began fleeing the fire. Witnesses said that by the time the road was cleared, some had already died in the flames as others escaped the growing fire by jumping into the ocean.


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