Shocking Nasa satellite image reveals deadly intensity of Maui wildfires

A satellite image shared by Nasa reveals in stark detail the intensity of the deadly fire sweeping the Hawaiian island of Maui, costing at least 106 lives.

The fires, which started last week, are the deadliest in the US for more than 100 years.

Lahaina, on the west coast of the island, was the worst hit after fast-moving flames rapidly engulfed the town on Tuesday, August 8, leaving complete devastation in their wake.

A Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesman has confirmed none of the island’s 80 alarms were sounded, giving residents little time to escape. Many survivors fled into the sea, and have since returned to the town to find their homes and livelihoods razed to the ground.

The image, captured by the Landsat 8 satellite’s Operational Land Imager (OLI), was taken at 10.25pm local time on August 8. It also shows a second major fire northeast of Kihei, and a number of smaller blazes further east on the island.

Observed in shortwave infrared light, the active fires are shown in yellow, overlaid on a natural-colour mosaic image.

Unlike many areas experiencing intense wildfires in recent years, fire is not a natural part of the annual cycle on this archipelago of lush islands. 

However, since 1990, Hawaii has been experiencing decreasing rainfall in both the dry and wet seasons, resulting in part of Maui being declared in ‘moderate to severe drought’ at the time of the fires.

In addition to dry conditions being more susceptible to wildfires, once alight, the blazes were exacerbated by high pressure to the north of the island and Hurricane Dora to the south. These brought winds of up to 67 miles an hour that helped spread the blazes with deadly speed.

The average wildfire moves at around 14mph, but under extreme conditions can travel faster than a moving car, putting those in its path in extreme danger.

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