Local woman recounts escape from Maui wildfire

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – President Joe Biden says he plans to visit Hawaii to see the wildfire damage for himself in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the number of victims from the Maui wildfires continues to rise. At least 99 are now confirmed dead with close to a thousand still missing.

500 families who lost their homes have been moved to hotels, but there’s growing concern about long term recovery.

One of those people who lost everything is a native New Mexican. Now she is sharing what it was like in the middle of the chaos, and why she’s thanking someone special for getting out safely. 

“I literally saw two houses just burning up with fire. And at that point, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, like, this is really bad, we got to get out of here,’” said Shantal Catanach. 

Catanach is describing the moment she saw her city was up in flames from her balcony. She says her 3-year-old son Keanu is the one who helped them make it out to safety after he noticed the smoke first. 

Catanach has lived in Maui for the past six years, trading her Santa Fe home for Lahaina. Instead of paradise, she described the fire as apocalyptic. 

It’s been a few days since they escaped the flames, but reality is just setting in for them. 

“Like last night, my son was having nightmares. He was waking up in the middle of the night crying and sweating, and I know it’s from the trauma,” Catanach said. 

She says she’s one of the hundreds who got no evacuation warning. 

“No alarm system went off for the whole town to evacuate, like that could have saved hundreds and hundreds of lives,” said Catanach. 

Catanach says if she’d spent a minute longer packing a bag she may not have survived. She says her building quickly went up in flames. 

For now, she and her son are staying with a friend on the other side of the island. 

Catanach says she lost everything material, but found a new perspective on life. 

“There’s no time to have any quarrels, there is no time to judge, there’s no time for unforgiveness. This is a time to love people and to, to help in any way possible,” said Catanach. 

She also adds that she’s very thankful to all the friends and family that have reached to check on her.