Fire hurricane explained after signal failed to warn Hawaii locals of blaze

A devastating natural disaster has ripped through one of the wealthiest countries on the planet creating what is known as a “fire hurricane”.

Parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui have fallen victim to harrowing wildfires that are known to have claimed the lives of at least 96 people, although more are feared to have perished.

Officials now have the task of searching an area roughly equivalent to five square miles and they have reported that the identification of victims has been difficult.

READ MORE: Rhodes horror fires 'caused by human hands' as island blaze sees 16,000 evacuated

Fires burned as hot as 1000C, their destructive powers gutting the historic resort town of Lahaina with locals forced to flee on foot after seemingly receiving no notification from emergency warning systems.

The fires raged on Tuesday and Wednesday (August 8 and 9) but fire crews were still working to tackle remnants and flare-ups over the subsequent weekend.

The island, part of the US, was hit particularly hard because of two weather events occurring at the same time, the combination of which has been dubbed a “fire hurricane”.

But what made this incident so deadly and how did it overpower the warning systems and infrastructure of a country as developed as the US?

Multiple fires are understood to have been burning across the island, but they were fanned and bolstered by strong winds.

Those winds came from a hurricane that missed Hawaii but still managed to influence the local weather systems enough to have a catastrophic impact.

Hurricane Dora was blowing off the south coast of the archipelago, however, an area of high pressure was sitting to its north.

Wind is largely caused by the movement of air between an area of high pressure and an area of low pressure.

Air moved from the area of high pressure to the area of low pressure, meaning anything between these two points is likely to experience very windy conditions – and in this case that place was Hawaii.

Those winds have fanned the flames of the wildfires and made the blazes bigger, spread faster and make it harder for firefighters to get them under control.

The fires, which come amid concerns on a global scale that rising atmospheric temperatures will make such incidents more likely, have been used by Hawaii Governor Josh Green as a warning.

“That’s what a fire hurricane is going to look [like] in the era of global warming,” he said.

The damage, which is thought to have cost around $6billion in total, has led to a scene that has been described as a “warzone”

Multiple residents have recounted that they had no prior warning about the incident, with many claiming that if the system had operated many more lives could have been saved.

The warning systems are tested every month and are supposed to warn residents about tsunamis and other natural disasters, but they didn't sound, leaving people forced to flee on foot as fast as they could.

Hawaii's attorney general has now launched an investigation into why this is the case, although some have already speculated that the fire may have spread too quickly for the early warning system to be effective.

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