A huge wildfire spreading across Hawaii’s Maui Island is believed to have destroyed the location’s beloved banyan tree.
Thousands of locals on Hawaii’s Maui island have been forced to evacuate their homes after a wind-fueled wildfire began on Tuesday (August 8, 2023).
Hawaii News Now updates that the historic town of Lahaina “has been nearly completely reduced to rubble” as seen in the aerial footage captured from a Hawaiian Airlines flight. The fire is believed to have dominated the heart of Lahaina, where the famous banyan tree stands.
Although there is no official confirmation from authorities, locals and tourists alike are praying for the attraction’s safety.
Maui Banyan tree at risk amid ‘apocalyptic’ Hawaii wildfires
Residential homes and businesses in Maui have been engulfed by flames, reports CNN, as the fire department has been overwhelmed by the speed of the disaster. Witnesses have been forced to jump into the ocean to escape danger while authorities have been struggling to coordinate evacuations due to failed communication services.
“911 is down. Cell service is down. Phone service is down. That’s been part of the problem,” says Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke. “The Maui County has not been able to communicate with residents on the west side, the Lahaina side.”
There are fears that the famous banyan tree popular with visitors has been lost to the flames. There has been no update on the tree’s status but the Fire Information For Resource Management System (FIRMS) map confirms major active fires covering Lahaina, Puunoa, Kelawea, and the surrounding areas.
“Friends are telling me that Front Street in Lahaina Town is just devastated,” one user wrote on Twitter. That the historic Pioneer Inn used in the whaling days is gone. The world-famous Banyan Tree is gone. Info is slow coming out but this is an apocalyptic fire on Maui.”
A second person wrote: “‘Meet you at the banyan tree’! How many locals and tourists have said that phrase over the decades??? It burned down today as Lahaina was overtaken by wildfire.”
Why is the banyan tree famous?
The banyan tree has become a worldwide attraction as it is the largest banyan tree in Hawaii and the US. Spanning 1.94 acres, the enormous tree possesses 16 trunks and stands over 60ft high on 671 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761.
Planted in 1873 by Lahaina’s then-mayor William Owen Smith, it marked the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first American Protestant mission on Maui.
It was gifted by missionaries from India and was a mere eight-foot sapling. A common misconception is that the banyan tree is composed of several tree trunks. It is, however, a single trunk that has rooted into 16 new trunks to provide support for the ever-growing tree.