Maui over the past few days show flames engulfing several towns on the Hawaiian island following a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, leading to widespread devastation and 55 confirmed deaths.

This graphic shows the location of fires on the island of Maui, Hawaii.

Several thousand Hawaii residents raced to escape homes on Maui as the Lahaina fire swept across the island, killing multiple people and burning parts of a centuries-old town.

Donate to groups with deep local ties, philanthropy experts advise

Philanthropy experts are advising people looking to contribute to the victims of the Maui wildfire to wait before making any donations.

Regine Webster, the Centre for Disaster Philanthropy’s Vice President, suggests waiting for up to a week until firefighters conclude their response, providing a clearer understanding of the overall necessities.

Ms Webster further recommends directing support towards organisations deeply rooted within the local community, which have profound insights into its specific needs.

Alternatively, those wishing to contribute can utilise the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, which evaluates fundraisers for individuals who have suffered property loss or injuries. The organisation will implement supplementary verification procedures before disbursing funds, while also applying a transaction fee.

’Hotels, businesses… completely obliterated’

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed – and thousands of people are in need of temporary accommodation following the raging fire on Maui.

Sky’s Martha Kelner surveys the damage caused by wildfire in the historic town of Lahaina.

Deadly flames overtook Hawaiian town ’without warning’, residents say

Residents who fled a deadly Maui wildfire, which claimed 55 lives, are questioning why Hawaii’s emergency sirens didn’t alert them as flames rapidly approached their homes. Official records show that the warning system failed to trigger before the wildfire devastated the historic town of Lahaina.

Despite Hawaii’s claim of having the world’s largest outdoor public safety warning system, with about 400 sirens across the island chain, many survivors report not hearing any alerts. Some only became aware of the danger when flames or explosions were evident.

Thomas Leonard, a retired postal worker, learned of the fire through smoke as power and phone service were out. Attempting to escape, he abandoned his car due to nearby explosions and sought refuge by the shoreline.

Firefighters eventually guided Mr Leonard and others to safety through the flames.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Adam Weintraub confirmed that records don’t indicate siren activation; instead, the county relied on mobile phone, TV, and radio alerts, although the timing amid communication outages is uncertain.

Fuelled by dry conditions and strong winds, the wildfire surprised Maui, flattening homes and causing significant damage, marking Hawaii’s deadliest natural disaster since a 1960 tsunami.

Biden declares major disaster on Maui

President Biden has declared a major disaster on Maui amid the devastating wildfires.

Travelling in Utah on Thursday, he pledged that the federal response will ensure that ”anyone who’s lost a loved one, or whose home has been damaged or destroyed, is going to get help immediately”.

Mr Biden promised to streamline requests for assistance and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was ”surging emergency personnel” on the island.