SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — As the deadly wildfires on Maui continue to burn Thursday, the widespread impacts are being felt right here in the Bay Area. Flight cancellations at Bay Area airports have upended vacation and travel plans. Many travelers returning from the island have come back with harrowing stories of narrowly escaping the devastation.
Selin Uyarer arrived at SFO Thursday morning from Maui and was staying at an Airbnb on vacation with her family when the wildfires erupted. She says the Airbnb was destroyed completely.
“Staying in Lahaina in an apartment place. And then we were waiting for the storm to calm down, but it got really bad. And then the ceiling starts… the roof starts to fly off. And then we got the evacuation order. So, in the five minutes, we put everything in our bags and leave. And then we saw the smoke,” said Uyarer, a San Jose resident.
“It’s gone. It’s been totally burned. Those people have lost their homes. The man that we gave our stuff to said, ‘I just ran from my home. It was burning,'” said another woman who was traveling from Maui after the wildfire began.
Desiree Baker has lived in Maui since the 1970s and just arrived at SFO from the island Thursday morning for her vacation in Europe. She recalled what Lahaina looked like when she left.
“Devastation. Sadness. Yesterday, I cried all day. It’s really bad,” said Baker. “We know several people who lost their homes, pets. It’s going to be a trickle-down effect for many years.”
When speaking about what flight delays looked like in Maui, Baker added:
“We’ve been delayed about 24 hours. Thirty minutes before our flight was supposed to take off, we were told it wasn’t going to. We’re provided nothing, no food, no lodging, no cars, there’s no hotels, and there’s no Airbnbs available so you can sleep on the floor of the airport.”
She said once you got into the airport, after 10:45 p.m., you could not leave.
“Sadness doesn’t even begin to describe it because we could see all the local employees at the hotel. They couldn’t go home. They didn’t know if their families were alive,” said Caroline Denis, from the Bay Area who was in Maui attending a friend’s wedding.
“When you see the fire reaching a half mile away and progressing fast, you really want to get out. You don’t want to get stuck there,” Denis added.
“We have a very close friend who lost a house and business,” said one traveler at SFO.
Fifty-five people have been confirmed dead in the fires, with around one-thousand people remaining unaccounted for. In Lahaina, at least 270 buildings have been destroyed and thousands of people have been displaced.