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Hawaii Congregations Hold Vigils for Victims and Disappeared after Maui’s Catastrophic Wildfires

by Gabriel Martinez
7 comments
fokus keyword Hawaii Wildfires

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Sunday was a day of mourning and prayers for those who have lost their lives and those still unaccounted for in Hawaii’s churches. As recovery efforts continue after the previous week’s calamitous wildfires, the focus shifts towards the long road to rebuilding. These fires decimated a historic town in Maui, resulting in more than 90 deaths.

Despite being surrounded by destruction, Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina remained untouched by the flames. Its congregants, however, had to attend Mass 10 miles away, under the leadership of the Honolulu Bishop, Rev. Clarence “Larry” Silva.

Taufa Samisani revealed the tragic loss of his family members, while his wife, Katalina, sought solace in a Bible story referenced by Silva. She expressed hope, saying, “If Peter can walk on water, yes we can. We will get to the shore,” her voice trembling with emotion.

In a special Mass, Silva read a message from Pope Francis who expressed his prayers for those who had lost family, homes, and businesses. Additionally, prayers were offered for first responders.

Silva also shared the community’s concerns about the children who have witnessed such a disaster and the subsequent anxiety, emphasizing the need for normalcy in their lives.

Tourists were urged to refrain from visiting Maui by Hawaii officials, while preparations were made to accommodate evacuees and emergency workers. Following the destruction in Lahaina, approximately 46,000 residents and visitors have departed from Kahului Airport.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority stressed that the coming weeks would require concentrated efforts from all levels of government, local communities, and the travel industry for the rehabilitation of those forced to flee their homes and businesses. Visitors were instead encouraged to explore Hawaii’s other islands.

Governor Josh Green announced that 1,000 hotel rooms would be set aside for displaced locals and Federal Emergency Management Agency workers. The state also plans to collaborate with Airbnb to provide rental homes for those who have lost their dwellings.

The death toll around Lahaina has risen to 93, marking the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century. With only a small portion of the search area covered, authorities have warned that the identification of the dead is still in its early phases.

Volunteers and residents have come together to provide essential supplies, while search-and-rescue teams continue their diligent efforts. Personal accounts of loss and survival emphasize the community’s collective grief and resilience.

J.P. Mayoga, a cook at the Westin Maui, continues to serve meals to hotel employees and their families affected by the fire. Warnings have also been issued about potential contamination of running water in certain areas.

Maui Mayor Mitch Roth has described the recovery effort as a “marathon not a sprint,” urging residents to donate to established nonprofits.

This devastating wildfire surpasses the death toll of the 2018 Camp Fire in California and marks Hawaii’s deadliest natural disaster in decades, outpacing tsunamis in 1960 and 1946.

The fires were aggravated by a dry summer and strong winds from a nearby hurricane, decimating nearly every structure in Lahaina, a town of 13,000. Fires continue to burn in other areas of Maui, but no other fatalities have been reported.

The cause of these wildfires remains under investigation. Journalists from various locations contributed to this report, which is part of Big Big News’ climate and environmental coverage, supported by several private foundations. The AP maintains full responsibility for the content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword Hawaii Wildfires

What areas were affected by the wildfires in Hawaii?

The wildfires primarily devastated the historic town of Lahaina on Maui, destroying nearly every building in the area. Elsewhere on Maui, fires have been reported in south Maui’s Kihei area and in the inland communities known as Upcountry.

How many people have died in the Maui wildfires?

As of the latest report, the death toll around Lahaina has reached 93, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century.

What measures are being taken to assist those affected by the fires?

A combination of federal, state, and local efforts is being made to assist those affected. This includes making hotel rooms available for displaced locals, working with Airbnb for long-term rentals, volunteers donating essential supplies, and urging contributions to established nonprofits.

Are tourists still able to travel to Maui?

Hawaii officials have urged tourists to avoid traveling to Maui at this time. Visitors are instead encouraged to explore other islands in Hawaii.

What is the status of the search and recovery operations?

Crews with cadaver dogs have covered just 3% of the search area, and the effort to find and identify the dead is still in its early stages. The community, including volunteers, is also actively engaged in search-and-rescue efforts and donations.

Is the water safe to drink in affected areas?

Maui water officials have warned residents in Lahaina and Kula not to drink running water, which may be contaminated even after boiling. They’ve also advised taking only short, lukewarm showers in well-ventilated rooms to avoid possible chemical vapor exposure.

What’s the cause of the wildfires, and are they still ongoing?

The cause of the wildfires is under investigation. Fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, the flames have caused widespread destruction. Fires continue to burn in other areas of Maui, but no additional fatalities have been reported from those blazes.

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7 comments

Mike O'Neal August 14, 2023 - 4:55 am

been to Lahaina last year. beautiful place, wonderful people. Hope they can rebuild, but it won’t be the same. it’s so tragic…

Reply
John Smith August 14, 2023 - 9:54 am

cant believe what’s happened to Maui its heartbreaking, those poor families. We need to help as much as we can! Where can i donate?

Reply
Alan Peters August 14, 2023 - 3:54 pm

The cause still under investigation? they need to find out what happened, and fast. Too many people have died already…

Reply
Karen Lewis August 14, 2023 - 4:32 pm

Why are tourists even thinking of going there now? They should be respectful and give the place time to heal. They can visit the other islands, right?

Reply
Emily Wright August 14, 2023 - 4:36 pm

Just read the part about the dogs searching for the bodies, it’s only 3% covered, so much more to go. can’t even begin to imagine what families are going through.

Reply
Tom Richardson August 14, 2023 - 5:18 pm

The story about Taufa Samisani’s family really got to me. how can we ever recover from something like this. so much loss…

Reply
Sara Johnson August 14, 2023 - 10:18 pm

what’s the government doing about it? they’ve to step up and help these people. Disasters like this shouldn’t happen in this day and age…

Reply

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