Devastation in Maui: What happened and how can you help?
The historical and idyllic town of Lahaina on the coast of West Maui holds great significance in the lives of many island residents, not only in Maui, but across the entire island chain. There are buildings in the town dating back over 200 years that serve as a physical timeline of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the history of the people who have called this place home for countless generations.
Children attended school and parents ran businesses on historical Front Street. The city was vibrant and alive with the spirit and culture of the people. That is, before the events that took place the night of Tuesday, August 8 th , 2023, when an out of control wildfire ripped through the city, devastating anything that stood in its way. Drought conditions, low humidity levels, and over 50 mph hour winds from Hurricane Dora passing just south of the islands all combined into a situation that some residents described was like being in the middle of a war zone. Many
were able to escape with only the clothes on their back, forced to flee so quickly, they had to leave everything behind, not knowing what they would return to or even when they would be able to return to their homes and lives.
At this time, although the fire that wreaked so much havoc is now 85% contained, the
residents of this town still do not know what the future holds, some still missing loved ones and beloved family pets and realizing they do not have homes to return to. The Pacific Disaster Center and Federal Management Agency released initial damage assessment maps that show 2,720 structures have been impacted by the flames with more than 2,200 either severely damaged or destroyed, of those a staggering 86% were residential properties. Around 1,000 people remain unaccounted for as specialized recovery crews with cadaver dogs continue their grim task still not able to make it into some of the town’s worst impacted areas because of ongoing safety concerns that include hot spots and hazardous fumes and dust.
Electricity remains out across much of West Maui with only spotty cell service available in some areas and officials are telling residents not to drink the tap water as it may be
contaminated. As the death toll continues to rise, once thing is certain, this beautiful idyllic town that holds a special place in the hearts of many natives will never be the same.
However, even in the face of such darkness, hope remains. People across the island chains have been coming together to help support the residents that were impacted by this devastating tragedy, offering food, essential supplies, and housing, some reaching into their own pockets to pitch in for much needed items. People are organizing supply drives and local businesses are also pitching in whatever they can. As always, even in times of natural disaster, the Aloha spirit and is alive and well along with the long-held custom of Kuleana, which means so much more than “responsibility”. It is a Hawaiian’s personal and distinct contribution to a community to help it thrive and is considered a privilege to be able to help or “kokua” when needed.
The people here may have lost a part of their history, but they will never lose their culture, hearts, or soul. It is alive and well in the actions of not only the citizens of Hawaii, but also in the actions people across the globe that choose to help. This set back will not cull the spirit of the people of Hawaii as they will use it as a catalyst to help move their people forward and come together to reach the other side, even stronger than before.
If you are moved to kokua (help) and would like to contribute to the recovery efforts, please follow the link below which will provide a list of places accepting donations.