Address on the Maui Wildfire Disaster – Friday, August 18, 2023Posted on Aug 18, 2023 in Latest Department News, Main, Newsroom, Office of the Governor Press Releases
GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN:
Aloha, good evening, and thank you for joining us as we address the devastating crisis on Maui.
Ten days ago, fires fanned by hurricane-force winds swept through the town of Lāhaināand other areas of Maui, inflicting terrible damage on our communities there.
FIRST LADY JAIME KANANI GREEN:
Our hearts go out to the victims of the disaster and their families, as we come together to support the people of Maui.
More than two hundred years ago, King Kamehameha I unified our islands and made Lāhainā the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Over two centuries, with their aloha, their dedication, and their hard work, the people of Lāhainā built their town into a special place — a unique and vibrant community.
For generations, Lāhainā’s beauty, culture, and rich history drew artists, musicians, and visitors from around the world.
Tragically, it took less than a single day for us to lose Lāhainā in the deadliest fire our country has seen in more than a century.
GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN:
The scope of the devastation on Maui is difficult to express in words.
More than 2,200 buildings have been destroyed and another 500 have been damaged, at an estimated cost of nearly $6 billion.
But far more devastating than any material loss is the loss of precious lives — of mothers, fathers, grandparents, sons, and daughters — lives that can never be replaced.
Now we are engaged in the difficult work of searching for survivors, reuniting separated families, and identifying the remains of those we have lost.
There are now 470 search and rescue workers and 40 search dogs combing through hundreds of burned buildings, and they have already completed searching more than 60% of the disaster area.
The number of lives we have lost has climbed to over one hundred, and we expect it to increase each day we continue our search.
This process is agonizing for the families waiting for word from their loved ones, and heart-breaking for those sifting through the debris — testing our capacity to continue searching, our ability to endure pain and loss, and our commitment to locate and identify every person affected by this disaster.
Right now we are bringing relief and aid to those affected by the fire on a massive scale.
The Hawai‘i National Guard continues to assist first responders on Maui with search and rescue efforts and with securing the fire-damaged areas, as they also help active-duty military and volunteers with the delivery of food, water, and medical supplies.
The efforts of the National Guard, our first responders, and the entire Maui community have been nothing less than heroic, and we thank them for their courage, dedication, and sacrifice.
We have secured over 2,000 housing units on Maui to shelter those displaced by the fire, and we are working with the American Red Cross to provide housing to all the survivors as long as is necessary.
I have personally been on the ground in the disaster area as much as possible, helping to manage the response, caring for the injured, and comforting survivors — listening to their stories of tragedy, loss, and hope.
I held the hand of a 30-year-old local Lāhainā man as he was being bandaged, with extensive first and second-degree burns to his legs and face, which he suffered as he pulled strangers into his car to save them from the fire, as his own clothes were burning.
I spoke with an 80-year-old Japanese man who shared that for the last decade he had spent most of his time volunteering in West Maui, and now he’s unable to locate two of his best friends.
A young Filipina woman, seven months pregnant, cried as she told me she didn’t know how she would make it to her next medical appointment to make sure her baby is safe and healthy.
With tears in her eyes, she told me that she intends to name her baby Faith.
I want everyone who is listening to know that I will do everything in my power as governor to bring us back, to help us heal, and to find a way to move forward past this tragedy.
I am personally making sure that Maui receives every possible resource available from the federal government, from the private sector, and from around the world, and that ALL of it gets to the people who need it.
I have ordered a comprehensive assessment of every detail of our response to the fires on Maui.
We will get to the bottom of exactly how the fire started, how our emergency procedures and protocols need to be strengthened, and how we can improve our defenses to protect us in the future.
We have already received massive assistance from FEMA and other federal agencies, and we are especially grateful to President Biden for his support and partnership.
From the first hours of the disaster, he offered every resource to aid our response, immediately ordering the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy 3rd Fleet to support our rescue and relief efforts, and issuing a Presidential Disaster Declaration within hours of our request.
I have invited the President and the First Lady to visit Maui next week when it can be done safely and in a way that will support our recovery efforts.
We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support and aloha the people of Maui have received from every part of our state, from across the nation, and from around world, along with innumerable offers of assistance to aid the survivors and to help rebuild Lāhainā.
The loss we have suffered is unspeakable and devastating.
We will continue to mourn as we care for the survivors and begin to move forward together.
With federal aid, we will begin a massive recovery effort to clean up and begin to rebuild the affected areas of Maui.
We will rebuild Lāhainā.
It will take years of work and billions of dollars, but we are committed to this effort, and together we will meet this challenge.
Lāhainā belongs to its people — and we are committed to rebuilding and restoring it the way THEY want it.
The land in Lāhainā is reserved for its people as they return and rebuild, and I have instructed the Attorney General to impose enhanced criminal penalties on anyone who tries to take advantage of victims by acquiring property in the affected areas.
We ask that people please not travel to the area affected by the disaster in West Maui until further notice, except for returning residents and authorized emergency relief workers.
However, all other areas of Maui and the rest of Hawai‘i are safe and open to visitors, and we continue to welcome and encourage travel to our beautiful state, which will support the local economy and help speed the recovery of those who have already suffered so much.
To support the victims of the Maui fire, please give to the American Red Cross or the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, organizations which will ensure that your donations go to those in need.
Lāhainā will rise again — it will be a symbol of our resilience, our values, and our sacred bonds of ohana.
When it is rebuilt, it will be a living memorial to the loved ones we have lost, the native Hawaiian culture that founded it centuries ago, and the values that will enable us to endure this tragedy and flourish again, like the great banyan tree that survived the fire and still stands among the ruins today.
We will set an example for the world on how we protect and preserve our culture, our history, and our values, as we navigate the challenges of sustainable development, extreme weather, and global climate change in this century.
We will never forget what we have lost in Lāhainā, and we will never abandon the survivors, or our commitment to help them recover and heal.
We will mourn those we have lost, honor their memories, and support the survivors — and we will nurture our hope for the future that will emerge again like shoots from the ashes.
Aloha and good night.