OAN’s Stephanie Stahl
6:02 PM – Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Following the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century, Maui County officials have announced that all of West Maui — except for destroyed sections of historic Lahaina — will be welcoming visitors again on November 1st.
On Monday, Mayor Richard Bissen said that the decision was made after talking it through with the Lahaina advisory team, the Red Cross, and other partners.
The decision marks a significant step toward recovery following the devastating wildfire that broke out on August 8th, killing at least 99 people, displacing thousands, and destroying more than 2,000 buildings.
Prior to this announcement, Mayor Bissen and his Lahaina Advisory Team created a phased-reopening approach in response to Governor Josh Green’s announcement of an October 8th reopening.
This phased strategy was developed to help residents resume work, ensure the availability of essential childcare services, and facilitate the enrollment of children in temporary state Department of Education elementary and intermediate schools.
The phases also aimed to address the housing requirements of those temporarily housed in various hotel properties, while emphasizing a gradual reintegration of visitors.
West Maui represents about half of Maui’s total accommodations, with more than 11,000 hotel rooms.
Mayor Bissen explained that the November 1st reopening will consolidate the final two planned phases. This combined reopening serves as a signal for businesses and workers to initiate their preparations.
“The Red Cross has assured me that housing for displaced Lāhainā residents, including those staying in hotels, is not in jeopardy. In addition, the County has a commitment from other partners to work on developing child care programs for displaced families. Sheltering close to 7,000 survivors remains a critical focus of our efforts and their needs are our priority. I appreciate the help our hotels have provided these past several weeks, and we’ll continue to work together with the hotel properties and American Red Cross,” Mayor Bissen said in a statement.
Maui communities have pushed back against the plan to reopen to tourists again, arguing that the disaster-stricken region is not ready yet.
Some residents have even drafted a petition to delay the reopening of West Maui. The petition has garnered nearly 17,000 signatures so far.
Lahaina resident De Andre Makakoa, whose house burned down in the fire, is one of the thousands who signed the petition. He was able to secure permanent housing, but he is still worried about his relatives that are reliant on relief hotels.
“The Red Cross only operates in a select amount of hotels, but all the hotels and condominiums that the Red Cross wasn’t operating in, they don’t have protection, so now that tourism has opened back up everybody is getting evicted out of there,” Makakoa said.
According to the mayor, residents who have been staying in West Maui hotels and other short-term accommodations after losing their homes in the fire will not lose their lodging.
“We’re assured by the Red Cross that their housing will not be in jeopardy,” Mayor Bissen said.
The mayor also added that the reopening schedule was voluntary and said that some properties have already reopened on their own.
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