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Historic church spared by the Maui fires towers above ash and rubble: 'It's like a miracle'
Image composite of Twitter video, @Sachinettiyil - Screenshot

Historic church spared by the Maui fires towers above ash and rubble: 'It's like a miracle'

The wildfires that ravaged the Hawaii island of Maui are the deadliest in over a century, having claimed at least 96 lives. Authorities expect the death toll to rise.

Thousands of acres of land have been torched along with the historic Lahaina area, which KHON-TV reported will cost well over $5.5 billion to rebuild.

In downtown Lahaina, there appears to have been at least one historic structure the fires could not claim, now standing defiantly amid the ash and ruin.

Maria Lanakila (Our Lady of Victory) Catholic Church, established by Fr. Aubert of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus in 1846, appears to have been spared from the worst of the smoke and flame.

Viral footage taken out front of the church pans from side to side, showing the largely untouched church surrounded by smoldering verges, collapsed buildings, and immolated trees.

USA Today reported that the original structure comprised an adobe building with grass hut chapels. The modern stone structure that stands today was completed in 1873.

The church, which serves between 700 and 800 families, contains artwork rumored to be gifts from King Kalakaua or his sister, Queen Liliuokalani.

Msgr. Terrence Watanabe, pastor of St. Anthony’s, told the Pillar, "Basically what we know is the fact that all of Lahaina Town has been consumed by fire. It’s all gone. The church, Maria Lanakila [Our Lady of Victory], is still standing."

Although the rectory is reported to have suffered some damage, it appears to have fared better than the nearby Sacred Hearts School, which had its roof torn off.

"For us, it’s like a miracle," Watanabe told the Star Advertiser. "When we saw the news and saw the church steeple rise above the town, it was a great sight to see."

"May She be the beacon of hope…to help the rest of the community," said parishioner Jeffrey Chang, reported the New York Post.

The pastor of the church, Fr. Kuriakose Nadooparambil, indicated all of his staff escaped the fire and found temporary residence with members of the Catholic community in Central Maui.

The Waiola Church, home of a United Church of Christ congregation and Hawaii's first Christian cemetery, was not so fortunate, having been razed in the inferno.

Lay minister Anela Rosa told USA Today, "It's gone, the social hall, the sanctuary, the annex, all of it."

The Waiola Church celebrated its 200th anniversary in May and is the final resting place of the Kingdom of Hawaii's royal family, according to the church's website.

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