Canada is advising people not to travel to the Hawaiian island of Maui after a devastating wildfire largely destroyed the town of Lahaina, killing at least 36 people.
Global Affairs Canada’s advisory on its website says to “avoid non-essential travel” to Maui, and warns Canadians already on the island to consider if they really need to be there, and if not to “think about leaving.”
Air Canada says the travel situation to Maui remains “dynamic and evolving” given the ongoing fires, with the airline planning to send a second empty plane to the island this evening after the first emergency ferry flight returned to Vancouver this morning.
A statement from the carrier says a scheduled flight from Maui to Vancouver — Air Canada’s only current daily route from the island — was cancelled on Tuesday, necessitating the ferry flight last night sent to pick up stranded passengers.
The fire, fuelled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, ignited Tuesday and quickly raced through a number of communities on Maui’s west coast.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority has asked visitors on non-essential travel to leave Maui, and incoming non-essential travel to the island is “strongly discouraged.”
Thomas Panos, owner of Vancouver-based Omega Travel, says Maui is a major destination for Canadian travel during the fall, winter and spring seasons, and the potential loss of the island as a market for the foreseeable future could be a “huge hit” for the tourism industry.
Officials with Maui County say at least 36 people have been killed, dozens more injured, and more than 270 structures damaged or destroyed.
It is feared more deaths will be confirmed when the flames die down.
The death toll makes the wildfire the deadliest such incident in the United States since 2018, when at least 85 people were killed in the 2018 Camp Fire in California.
Air Canada says it is continuing to monitor the situation, with regular daily flights between Vancouver and Maui still scheduled.
It is also putting in place a flexible rebooking policy for passengers travelling to and from Maui.