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'It's all gone': Travellers fleeing deadly Maui wildfires arrive at Vancouver airport

Relieved travellers arrived at the Vancouver airport Thursday after fleeing from the deadly wildfires that have devastated parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui.

The rapidly spreading fires have killed at least 53 people and prompted the evacuation of Lahaina, a popular tourist destination on Maui's west coast where a number of Canadians were vacationing this week. More than 1,000 structures have been destroyed. 

"The whole town is just completely decimated," said Vladimir Stelkic, a Calgary resident who landed at Vancouver International Airport on his way to see family in B.C. "There's nothing there."

Stelkic recounted planning his escape from a hotel that had lost power due to the West Maui wildfire and was relying on backup generators.

"We were about 10 minutes away from the fire. We could see the glow and the smoke," he said.

"They were just running the elevators and emergency lighting but the computers were out … There was no cell service, there was no food." 

Langley resident Jennifer Cordova said she was enjoying the sights in Lahaina just two days ago, including the banyan tree, a 150-year-old landmark that has been badly damaged by the flames that tore through town.

"It's really sad," Cordova said. "It's changing fast and it's scary, but we're just really grateful that we got on our flight. We slept at the Maui airport for 24 hours."

The fires have impacted travel on the island, but officials opened up a route along the northern coast – the single-lane Kahekili Highway, a winding cliffside road that is notorious among tourists – to help people escape. Stelkic was among those who risked the drive to make their way to Kahului Airport.

"I just feel really bad for the locals there," he said. "I feel guilty almost. We left and they're there."


Travellers who were scheduled to fly between YVR and Maui have been urged to check their flight status before leaving home.

Many flights have been cancelled or delayed due to the deadly wildfires, including two that were scheduled to depart from Vancouver and one that was supposed to arrive from the island on Wednesday.

Air Canada dispatched an empty plane from YVR on Wednesday night to help bring stranded Canadian travellers home, and said it is continuing to monitor the situation, with regularly daily flights between the two airports still scheduled as of Thursday morning.

Air Canada has also implemented a "flexible rebooking policy" for travellers who booked a flight to or from Maui, provided they purchased no later than Aug. 9 for a departure no later than Aug. 13.

"If you are scheduled to travel during the affected period, you can retrieve your booking to change your flight, free of charge, to another date between now and (Sept. 15, 2023) subject to availability in the cabin you originally purchased," reads a notice on the company's website. "Otherwise, any fare difference will apply."


On Thursday, Global Affairs Canada issued an advisory against non-essential travel to Maui.

Those who are already on the island have been "strongly advised" to "exercise caution, monitor local news and weather reports and to follow the instructions of local authorities, including evacuation orders," spokesperson Jérémie Bérubé told CTV News in a statement.

So far, the government has not received any reports of Canadians who have been killed or injured as a result of the fires, Bérubé said.

Canadian travellers in need of emergency consular assistance can contact Global Affairs' Emergency Watch and Response Centre by calling +1-613-996-8885, texting +1-613-686-3658, via Telegram at Canada Emergency Abroad, via WhatsApp at +1-613-909-8881, or via Signal at +1-613-909-8087.

Help is also available through email at

With files from's Sissi De Flaviis and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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