(Daily Mail) Horrifying images taken at daybreak today show the extent of the damage in Lahaina, the Maui town that was entirely torched by a merciless wildfire on Tuesday. 

Thirty-six people were killed, dozens injured and hundreds remain missing as a result of the fire that remains a mystery to many residents. 

Local officials still do not know the precise origin of the fire. It spread quickly and ferociously because it was fanned by strong winds from the passing Hurricane Dora. 

Those gusts coupled with dry conditions on Maui and low humidity spelled disaster for residents, many of whom escaped with seconds to spare. 

As they begin to assess the damage, many are still looking for their loved ones after two days of terror. 

‘We woke up and got on our phones to see pictures of our house down to slab. Nothing but smoke and cinders,’ one shell-shocked local said. 

Officials said earlier Wednesday that 271 structures had been damaged or destroyed and that dozens of people had been injured. Thirty six people have perished and hundreds are still missing.

‘We are still in life preservation mode. Search and rescue is still a primary concern,’ Adam Weintraub, a spokesperson for Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said Thursday.

He said search and rescue teams still won’t be able to access certain areas until the fire lines are secure and they’re sure they can get to those areas safely.

‘What we have here is a natural disaster,’ Weintraub said. ‘There may have been questions that need to be examined about whether it was handled in the right way. 

‘But we still got people in danger. We still have people who don’ have homes. We still have people who can’t find their loved ones.’ 

There are hundreds still missing from Lahaina, which saw the worst of the fires. 

Frantic relatives are sharing a Google document to update one another on their loved ones’ whereabouts. 

President Biden has declared a major disaster in the state of Hawaii to free up emergency funding for local officials. 

Family members have been urged to contact the Red Cross as well as local hospitals in a bid to locate their relatives, after communication lines have been severed due to the level of destruction by the fire.

State officials are working with hotels and airlines to try to evacuate thousands of tourists to another island.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation confirmed that Maui’s Kahului Airport is open, with thousands stranded there trying to escape the island.

As fires closed in all the way up to the shoreline, frantic locals jumped into the water in the harbor to escape the flames on Tuesday night. Twelve people were rescued from the waves by boats. 

Distraught residents of Lahaina woke up to photos and videos of their homes entirely destroyed. 

One escaped with his wife, children and dog and slept in a Whole Foods parking lot before waking to the news that their home had been destroyed. 

‘We got to this side of the island midnight last night, with my wife and dog, we slept in a parking lot at Whole Foods. We woke up and got on our phones to pictures of our house down to slab. Nothing but smoke and cinders. We have the clothes we got on, a dog and two kids. And here we are,’ he told NBC News. 

(New York Post) Two residents who were in the heart of the city of Lahaina during the fires which killed at least 36 people described the chaos as a literal ‘hell’ with screams and explosions around them as flames closed in until they had nowhere else to go but the ocean.

“I saw a couple people just running, I heard screams out of hell … explosions. It felt like we were in hell, it really was,” one of the men, who asked not to be named, told KHON2. “It was just indescribable.”

Another survivor added: “You couldn’t really see anything, sometimes it was just blacked out by the smoke, but you could still see the flames.”

With their backs against the fire, the men said the winds from the heat were blowing the flames closer and closer to the residents taking shelter, burning their skin.

After about 30 minutes, the men said the heat became too much to bear, with police advising them over the phone to jump into the ocean.

From a personal perspective, I have lived on Maui for a number of years and my heart breaks at the news, the pictures and the loss of life on this precious island, my second home. My deepest and heartfelt condolences to all those that have suffered a loss in this horrific tragedy. May our Savior Jesus Christ be with all those effected. (Dina Amelia Kalmeta)