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'It's like someone dropped a bomb': Irishman in Maui describes harrowing scenes after wildfires

Peter O’Riordan lives on the Hawaiian island which has been devastated by wildfires.

AN IRISHMAN LIVING on the Hawaiian island on Maui, which has been ravaged by wildfires, has said the scene he saw in the aftermath of the blaze was one of “absolute devastation and destruction”.

Peter O’Riordan runs a catamaran company and employs around 40 people, many of whom, he said have lost “everything”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, O’Riordan said he was staying in Chicago when he first heard news of the fires, but when he returned, the island looked as if “someone literally dropped a bomb on the west side of Maui”.

“Everything had been absolutely obliterated.”

O’Riordan said his house, his partner’s house and his mother-in law’s house had all been destroyed.

“They’re all gone. Every single one of them – and when I say gone, I mean dust.”

Referring to the loss of life from the fire, he said: “There’s things I don’t really want to talk about … if property and metals are melting at that rate, you can only imagine no one flesh and bone is reacting.”

He added that the island’s warning sirens failed when the fire broke out: “These people had no warning whatsoever that this was coming.

“I’m assuming a huge majority of these fatalities are going to be children. The schools were closed because of the hurricane on the day that this happened, so children were at home with their grandparents, at home alone.”

He added that even though many of his employees have “lost everything”, they are committed to “this huge Hawaiian family, our ‘ohana’”.

“We’ve housed people – everyone has really rallied together in this dark time.”

When asked about tourists who are still on the island, O’Riordan said the issue of tourism is a highly sensitive one in Hawaii.

In recent years, Hawaiians have become increasingly vocal about the effects of overtourism.

But O’Riordan said the islands are hugely dependent on income from tourists.

“We need tourists to come here to matriculate money through this economy.

“My biggest fear is in addition to this disaster, we are going to be spun into economic turmoil … that will seriously affects this island for many, many years to come.”

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