Maui town ravaged by fire will ‘rise again,’ Hawaii governor says of long recovery ahead

by Ethan Kim
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Wildfire recovery

The Hawaii Governor, Josh Green, expressed on Friday that the fate of the rebuilt Maui town, Lahaina, after the devastating wildfires will be determined by its residents. During a livestreamed address, he assured that Lahaina would be reconstructed as a living tribute to those who were lost, while also preserving the Native Hawaiian heritage. Green’s wife, Jaime Kanani Green, stood by his side, tearfully describing the town’s historical and cultural significance.

However, some residents, including Tiare Lawrence who grew up in Lahaina, voiced concerns over the swift pace of rebuilding, citing that the community is still mourning and in shock from the recent fire. They urged the governor to involve community leaders in decision-making and comply with transparency laws, given the distrust in the government’s disaster response.

Governor Green acknowledged these concerns, emphasizing that the rebuilding process would be extensive and expensive, requiring years of effort. He clarified that the town’s restoration would be guided by the wishes of its people. Despite announcing a moratorium on land transactions to prevent land grabs, details were not provided in the address.

Green’s address attempted to alleviate worries that the reconstructed town might prioritize wealthy tourists, but community activists, part of the coalition called “Na Ohana o Lele: Lahaina,” remained concerned about development’s impact on the environment and resources. They highlighted the mismanagement of land and water that contributed to the fire’s rapid spread.

The controversy surrounding the lack of sirens during the fire was also discussed, with the resignation of the Maui Emergency Management Agency administrator, Herman Andaya. The decision not to use sirens and other communication issues faced criticism, causing disruptions and confusion during the disaster. The state government has initiated a review of its response by an outside organization.

As Hawaii confronts increasing risks from disasters like wildfires, Governor Green expressed a commitment to understanding the fire’s cause, improving emergency procedures, and enhancing defense mechanisms for future incidents. Amid the tragedy, scenes of normalcy continued in other parts of Maui, underlining the state’s resilience and hope for recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Wildfire recovery

What caused the devastating wildfires in Maui?

The cause of the wildfires is currently under investigation. However, Hawaii faces increasing risks from disasters, with wildfires becoming a significant concern according to FEMA records.

How is the rebuilding process being approached?

Hawaii Governor Josh Green has assured that the rebuilding of Lahaina will be determined by its residents. He emphasized that it will be rebuilt as a living memorial while preserving Native Hawaiian culture.

What concerns do residents have about the rebuilding process?

Some residents are worried about the rapid pace of rebuilding while the community is still mourning and in shock. They are urging the governor to involve community leaders, allow time for healing, and ensure transparency in the decision-making process.

How is the government addressing concerns about potential development?

The government is acknowledging concerns about overdevelopment and the impact on the environment. It aims to rebuild according to the wishes of the community and avoid an orientation towards wealthy tourists.

What communication issues were faced during the disaster?

The lack of outdoor sirens during the wildfire and other communication problems caused confusion and disruptions. The Maui Emergency Management Agency administrator resigned over the controversy.

What steps are being taken to prevent future disasters?

The governor expressed a commitment to understanding the fire’s cause, enhancing emergency procedures, and improving defense mechanisms to protect against future incidents. An independent review of the government’s response is also being conducted.

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