MAUI, HI (WOWK/Nexstar) – More than 100 lives have been lost in the fires that have devastated Hawaii’s island of Maui. Thousands have people have been displaced and left with no homes to return to.
The federal government has made efforts to send aid and money to help in the recovery. FEMA has already deployed more than 700 personnel to the disaster zone with more on the way.
Here in the Mountain State, the American Red Cross Central Appalachia Region has been helping by sending volunteers, donations and blood to the affected areas. CEO of the American Red Cross Central Appalachia Region Erica Mani is fronting those efforts on the ground in Maui. She spoke with WOWK 13 News about the recovery efforts going on around her.
“It is one of the hardest things to see. I was able to go to Lahaina where roads are still close, people are under mandatory evacuation orders,” Mani said. “And this community – this whole community of Maui – needs our support, and the outpouring of support of our American people is critical right now, so we’re grateful.”
Mani says the island is in critical need of both immediate and long-term help the recovery effort from the devastation, including finding displaced families a place to stay.
“As we look at American Red Cross and our work, we recognize that not only do the people here need our immediate assistance, but also, we’re going to be here for the long haul. We have just signed a contract with the state governor’s office and officials to make sure that we do what we call non-congregate sheltering work,” Mani said. “We’re going to move from those big gymnasium-sized shelters to hotel rooms and other more private locations for families and individuals, and that’s going to go on for at least six months while we all start to work – all these community organizations, these national organizations – working to make sure that we rebuild and find housing solutions for all of these folks that have just lost so much.”
“It’s so challenging to see, but as always with big disasters, you see the best in people – both locally and across the country – with the kind of support required to make it happen.”Erica Mani, CEO, American Red Cross Central Appalachia Region
Mani has been appointed elected official liaison chief and will be working closely with elected officials, from council members and mayors to Hawaii’s governor, to make sure they’re kept in the loop of what residents and responders are experiencing.
“Everything from council members to mayors to the governor, and we know that the president of the United States is coming. So yes, I’ve been in interaction with all and will be with all of them. And to see the kind of support that’s coming here is heartwarming, and to see what the American Red Cross has been able to do because of it has been just outstanding,” Mani said. “Those elected officials are giving us so much intelligence and information to make sure that the job we do here is done well. And it is quite a great partnership. They have very, very involved elected officials in this state and in these localities.”
Government officials in Hawaii say it could take years for the island to recover from the fires. The blazes first broke out Tuesday, Aug. 8, though the exact causes are still being investigated. What officials do know, however, is that conditions in Maui were perfect for wildfires in the months leading up to this week’s events. A new report from the Associated Press says video taken by local residents has surfaced as “key evidence” pointing to fallen utility lines as a possible cause.
President Joe Biden will be going to Hawaii Monday, Aug. 21, to meet with survivors, see the damage and evaluate government response. The president has already approved Hawaii Governor Josh Green’s request for 100% reimbursement for 30 days.
The wildfires are the state’s deadliest natural disaster since a 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people. An even deadlier tsunami in 1946 killed more than 150 people on the Big Island. The Maui blaze is also the deadliest U.S. wildfire since the 2018 Camp Fire in California, which killed at least 85 people and laid waste to the town of Paradise.
WOWK 13 News’ parent company, Nexstar Media Group Inc., is also teaming up with the Red Cross to help those who have been affected. If you’d like to help, you can go to the organizations’ dedicated Maui wildfire donation page where you can donate directly toward those impacted by the tragedy.
Nexstar Media contributed to this report