'I have no hope': Families in Hawaii grapple with grief and trauma after wildfires ravage Maui

ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith, US Producer Will Tullis, and US Camera Operator and Editor Mark Davey report from the devastated town of Lahaina

On Maui’s west coast, the town of Lahaina is the epicentre of these wild fires - the deadliest in America for well over a century.

Lahaina was Hawaii’s ancient royal capital. A place of deep cultural and historical significance in Pacific Island culture.

It is now in ruins; a paradise lost.

Our ITV News team arrived to what is currently an active investigation zone, with streets closed off by police, and the US National Guard securing the perimeter.

Those residents who had been able to flee the fire have been allowed back to assess the damage.

We joined one family who were seeing, for the first time, what is left of their home.

The Mariano family visited the ruins of their family home. Credit: ITV News

“It’s devastating,” Jeff Mariano told us, as he examined the damage.

He showed us what used to be his living room. The second floor of the home no longer exists.

“We have to think about rebuilding but there are some days when it just hurts to think about everything we’ve lost,” he says.

For those who escaped this disaster, there is gratitude, but also the pain of now learning about the neighbours who did not.

“It’s sad,” Susan Rasalan tells me. She’s lived in Lahaina her whole life and says she knows several people still missing.

“The only thing is my grandchildren are safe. We are okay, my family is safe,” she tells me, holding back tears.

Ms Rasalan told ITV News she is thankful her family is safe, but several other people she knows remain missing. Credit: ITV News

In Lahaina, the burnt out buildings have become makeshift graves.

The dead are still being counted, and almost 1,000 people are still missing.

But there are no miracles here: no hope that anyone will be rescued from the ashes.

One video that’s been posted on social media shows residents on Lahaina during their terrifying escape.

It shows flames ripping through the town, engulfing the only road out.

In the final moments of the video, the body of a woman is seen unconscious on the side of the road.

“We have to leave her,” a male voice says. “There’s nothing we can do for her.”

Today, we found that woman’s family.

Sally Gomes saw her mother lying unconscious at the side of the road in a video that was posted to social media. Credit: ITV News

“I came to do a DNA swab for my mum because I saw a video that went vital and I know deep in heart that was my mum lying on the road,” says Sally Gomes.

We meet her at a community centre that’s been set up for relatives of the missing. She tells me her mum’s name was Donna.

“My mum is dead. It was right in front of her house.”

As well as dealing with her own grief, Sally tells us about the trauma of her own escape.

“It was pitch black, thick smoke. I couldn’t see to the end of my arm. I couldn’t even see that far.

“The screaming, the yelling, the honking of horns. The sirens wailing. And embers flying, burning my hair.”

Her daughter Tehani Kuhualua tells me she also has a cousin missing in Lahaina.

“I have no hope,” she says.

Maui County estimates more than 80% of the more than 2,700 structures in hard-hit Lahaina were damaged or destroyed Credit: ITV News

Winds of 80 miles an hour pushed the fire into the town - there was no evacuation warning.

The fire spread so quickly it had encircled Lahaina within minutes.

The winds had also forced power lines to collapse, blocking the main road out.

In a panic, those unable to escape could only stay at home and perish, or jump into the sea and swim for their lives.

People fought hard to live in Lahaina. But no help could get to them until it was too late.

Around 4,500 residents on Maui have been displaced due to the wildfires. Credit: ITV News

Relatives of the missing are now being warned not to expect bodies to be returned for funerals.

The fire was so hot it melted metal structures. Most of the dead will only be identified if traces of human DNA can be found in the ashes.

At the community centre, we also meet Ernest Been looking for information on his younger brother who is among the missing in Lahaina.

“Sometimes you just hope that maybe he went fast,” Ernest tells me.

“Just hoping he went fast, and not suffering with the burns.”

Ernest Been's brother is still missing. Credit: ITV News

An entire community is gone - the scale of destruction in Lahaina is horrifying.

But still wild fires on Maui have not gone away.

Two blazes continue to burn, and despite helicopter teams dropping water on the hills of Kula, the flames are still spreading.

With so many already dead or displaced, and winds once again picking up, people on this Hawaiian island can only fear what is on the horizon.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...