Maui Wildfires: Residents process grief as they fear transformation

New York Times
New York Times

The recent Maui wildfire is the most deadly wildfire in the US in over 100 years. The fire left at least 114 people dead and 1,000 people missing (CNN). Many of the victims of the fire were over 65 years old, and according to the U.S. Fire Administration, the risk of people in that age range is 2.6 times higher than those below it (Reuters). In addition, damages are estimated to cost around $6 billion. The port city of Lahaina is also nearly completely destroyed (CNN). 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid 2,000 households around $5.6 million so far. Hawaii Governor Josh Green also stated that 1,000 hotel rooms have been set aside for first responders and residents who have been displaced. Airbnb’s nonprofit wing will also provide 1,000 people with properties (CBS News).

The residents of the tight-knit community must choose to stay and rebuild everything or move. Rick Avila, a Lahaina resident whose home was destroyed in the fire, said that many people “feel they have to leave the community” and that friends and neighbors of his “are going to Kihei and Wailuku and Kahului,” which are communities on the other side of Maui; however, he states that “a lot of them are leaving the island completely.”

In addition to the losses caused by the wildfire, activists are concerned that speculators plan to buy up the land, and their desires will be prioritized over those of the grieving people. Longtime residents worry that Maui will be transformed into a tourist space and resorts and that native Hawaiians and old timers will be pushed out. Josh Green stated in a video that “Lahaina belongs to its people and [they] are committed to rebuilding and restoring it in the way [the people] want it.” He asserted that Lahaina’s land is “reserved for its people … as they return and rebuild,”and that the state would ensure that speculators would not take advantage of the grieving of the people to buy up the land (CNN). Native Hawaiians and Lainhana residents, however, worry Josh Green is trying to rebuild too quickly and is not providing enough time to mourn (CBS News).

This story will continue to develop as more information is shared with the public. I encourage everyone to keep up with updates; if you plan to visit Hawaii, recognize the damages caused by tourist spaces and support native Hawaiian businesses instead.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All AIS Press Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *