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At least 36 killed as fires burn through Hawaii

WAILUKU (AP) – Thousands of Hawaii residents raced to escape homes on Maui as blazes swept across the island, destroying parts of a centuries-old town and killing at least 36 people in one of the deadliest United States (US) wildfires in recent years.

The fire took the island by surprise, leaving behind burned-out cars on once busy streets and smoking piles of rubble where historic buildings had stood in Lahaina Town, which dates to the 1700s and has long been a favourite destination of tourists.

Crews battled blazes in several places on the island on Wednesday, and the flames forced some adults and children to flee into the ocean.

At least 36 people have died, according to a statement from Maui County late Wednesday that said no other details were available. Officials said that 271 structures were damaged and dozens of people injured.

The 2018 Camp Fire in California killed at least 85 people and virtually razed the town of Paradise. Officials warned that the death toll in Hawaii could rise, with the fires still burning and teams spreading out to search charred areas.

The hall of historic Waiola building in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames in Lahaina, Hawaii. PHOTO: AP