Scripps News spoke with Hawaii's Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke on Thursday, as firefighters continue to battle wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Wind-driven fires have destroyed much of the historic town of Lahaina.
"If you're familiar with Lahaina town, it has such historical value," Luke said. "Visitors and locals alike, they come to see this beautiful, vibrant town. It's just so heartbreaking to see it in ruins."
Officials have had their hands full working to evacuate both residents and visitors.
"Part of the challenge has been that the Lahaina area, the west side of Maui, has been cut off. The cell service, internet lines, broadband has been damaged," Luke said. "A lot of the assessments are trying to rescue people, locate people. We have asked individuals to shelter in place. Because of that, I think the search and rescue folks are doing their best to connect and get people out of the impacted areas."
As of Thursday evening, government officials said at least 53 people had died in the fires.
"We expect the numbers to increase as we do additional assessment," Luke said. "This is such a terrible tragedy for the people of Hawaii. The entire state is grieving at this point."
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