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Airlines help more than 11,000 passengers escape Maui wildfires

Those lucky enough to leave are gracious, but somber. Many worry about those left on Maui.
Airlines help more than 11,000 passengers escape Maui wildfires
Posted at 4:56 PM, Aug 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-10 18:57:07-04

Scripps News spoke with about half a dozen people who have landed in Oakland, California, from Maui, and they say they're exhausted, they're relieved, and they're happy to be home safe. 

The hum of baggage claim is now a song of safety for Gee Cavalcanti and Aspen Plummer. The couple had just arrived in Maui the day before for their honeymoon.

"When we woke up this morning, it was probably about 3 a.m. We got the pre-evacuation warning to get all of our stuff ready. And about 30 minutes later, the evacuation warning went out. We were about an hour, less than an hour north — 20, 30 minutes north of where the fire was. And we could see the blaze," said Cavalcanti. 

The couple is among the 11,000 Maui travelers officials evacuated as multiple wildfires destroy parts of the Hawaiian island.

"I felt fortunate to get on this flight. It cost a lot more money than I wanted to spend, but I'm very grateful to be here," said Pam Maycroft, a Hawaiian traveler.

"We really appreciate what the airlines have done. We look at the transpacific flights. Alaska, Delta, United and American have increased capacity by bringing in larger, larger planes to ensure we get more seats to get more people off the island," said Ed Sniffen, the deputy director for highways for the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

SEE MORE: Before and after images show true wildfire devastation on Maui

Southwest and Hawaiian Airlines have together added more than a dozen flights.

United  tells Scripps News they've canceled inbound flights to the Kahului airport in Maui so that their planes can then fly empty to Maui and be used as passenger flights back to the mainland. Those lucky enough to leave are gracious, but somber. Many worry about those left on Maui.

"Evacuees everywhere, parking lots full of people who were camping overnight. Long cars queued up on the side of the road, people walking up the slopes of the volcano on that side of the island to try to find a cell signal," said Matt Sorgenfrie, who was traveling from Maui.

"It felt very surreal driving away from our hotel with all of our belongings and seeing the orange and the flames in, at like 3 in the morning. That felt really apocalyptic, essentially in like the lines of cars. So really glad to be home," said Plummer.

As for the newlyweds, they plan to take another "big" trip, but haven't decided if they'll return to Maui.

"It's definitely a bummer that the trip was cut short, but at the end of the day, you know, some folks lost their lives over there. So I think we're just glad to be back here," said Calvalcanti. 

Meanwhile, Hawaiian authorities are urging travelers, if you do not have to come and visit the Hawaiian islands, please postpone your trip.

SEE MORE: Here's how you can help Maui residents amid deadly wildfires


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