The destructive wildfire that swept through a historic Maui town, in Hawaii, has left families of Portuguese descent among the missing persons, according to Tyler dos Santos-Tam, the honorary consul of Portugal in Hawaii. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has corroborated this information.
As the local authorities continue to update the death toll caused by the devastating fires, details about the identities of those missing remain scarce.
The island of Maui, part of the Hawaiian archipelago, hosts a notable Portuguese community, estimated to comprise “more than 10%” of the population of 1.428 million Hawaii inhabitants.
This wildfire incident marks one of the deadliest fires in the United States in the last fifty years, claiming the lives of over 90 individuals so far, with many more yet unaccounted for.
The tragedy has brought about widespread destruction in neighborhoods. For Hawaii, this disaster stands as the most severe since the 1960 tsunami that claimed 61 lives, with an even more fatal tsunami in 1946, resulting in over 150 deaths on the Big Island.
Portuguese immigrants originally arrived in Hawaii during the late 1800s, primarily as laborers for sugarcane and pineapple plantations. Over time, their presence has flourished, adding to the cultural tapestry of the islands.
The Portuguese community in Hawaii has preserved its heritage, including language, cuisine, and religious practices. Festivals like the annual Maui Portuguese Festival have become a testament to Portuguese culture, featuring food, music, dance, and various cultural events.
The Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, João Gomes Cravinho, stated on Saturday that so far “it has not registered” any request for support from citizens of dual nationality or Portuguese descent in Hawaii.
In response to this heartrending tragedy, President Joe Biden declared a state of catastrophe for the archipelago, prompting an inquiry into managing the crisis stemming from the fires.