In early August 2023, Hawaii, particularly the island of Maui, was ravaged by one of the worst wildfires in U.S. history, leaving more than 100 people dead in Lāhainā and 850 still missing. The fires, exacerbated by strong winds from Hurricane Dora, prompted a federal disaster declaration from President Joe Biden. However, residents complain about a lack of adequate official response. Questions have arisen about the state's emergency preparedness, especially why warning sirens were not activated.
Maui Is Devastated by Wildfires
Governor Josh Green faces scrutiny for multiple reasons. First, he signed an "Anti-Housing" proclamation last month to speed up the construction of 50,000 new housing units on Oahu, raising concerns about transparency, misuse of power, and the influence of developers. Second, amidst the devastation, there are fears that the tragedy might be exploited by land developers to build unaffordable hotels and condos, especially as many destroyed properties are along the coastline—prime real estate locations. Richy Palalay, a Lāhainā resident, voiced concerns that the charred land would be seen as an "opportunity to rebuild" by big developers, thus pricing out locals. The executive director of Housing Hawaii's Future highlighted the ongoing gentrification, noting that locals are already being displaced by wealthier newcomers.
Adding to the complications, the state's police chief, John Pelletier, previously served as the police commander during the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, arousing public interest. Furthermore, despite the federal disaster declaration, locals report inadequate assistance. Surfer Kai Lenny mentioned that the Department of Health initially blocked flights carrying insulin, though the situation has since been resolved.
Governor Green assures that post-reconstruction will not price locals out of their community. He is considering state options to acquire land either for workforce housing or as a memorial space. The Governor stated, "We want Lahaina to be a part of Hawaii forever. We don’t want it to be another example of people being priced out of paradise." However, as Maui already faces a housing crisis with average home prices around $1.2 million, these assurances may not be enough for a wary public who see a history of governmental decisions that favor developers and outsiders at the expense of local residents.
Many Maui Wildfire Victims May Be Children
Governor Green told "Face the Nation" that it's "possible" many victims are children who were at home because schools were closed. Only 27 of the 114 confirmed victims have been identified as of Monday. The fire struck on August 8, which was the first day back at school for students, but Lahainaluna High School was closed due to a power outage. Stories of children lost in the flames have begun to emerge.
Among the heartbreaking stories is that of 14-year-old Keyiro Fuentes, who was at home during the fire. His adoptive parents got stuck in traffic while trying to reach him and faced a police barricade when they tried to run to their home. When they were finally allowed to return, they found their son's body hugging their deceased family dog. He was just days away from turning 15, according to CBS News.
Governor Green expressed regret that sirens didn't alert residents to evacuate. He pointed out that traditionally, such sirens have been used for tsunamis. Kevin Tanaka, another resident, lost multiple family members who were trying to flee the wildfire. According to a GoFundMe account, Tanaka's wife's parents, sister, and 7-year-old nephew all died. They were found in a burned-out car near their home. Tanaka is now sheltering other evacuated family members in his home, under traumatic circumstances.
Governor Green emphasized that officials are now focused on recovery and providing resources to make life "livable for the survivors." He described the wildfire as "the largest catastrophe and disaster that's ever hit Maui" and probably the largest in Hawaii's history, aside from wartime events. The governor thanked the global community for their support and outreach during this tragic time.
The calamity has raised questions about emergency preparedness and has left communities grieving and struggling to come to terms with the magnitude of the loss. With hundreds still missing, the toll is expected to rise, deepening the tragedy that has already struck countless families and shocked the state.
Many people suspect that the state of Hawaii, including the governor, is well aware that there was a very high number of children who were killed by the wildfires; they're just releasing the information quite yet. Various commentators and influencers have come forward to express their anger and disappointment at how hush-hush this entire situation has been, and how the media has been covering up many of the details in order to protect President Biden and Hawaii Democrats.
"A little kid got separated from her mom for a few minutes at 11 pm because the mom had to be processed for her asylum claim. That was FRONT PAGE NEWS. 24/7. Time magazine cover. It also was a total hoax," lawyer and filmmaker Mike Cernovich posted on X (formerly known as Twitter). "A thousand kids burned in Maui. REALITY. Any magazine cover for them?"
Cernovich also called this a "massacre due to incompetence and ESG [environmental, social, governance] DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion] rules."
Thousands of people have agreed, guessing that when this disaster has settled and the true death toll is uncovered, there will be a "reckoning on that island," particularly toward local government and the media, who have not been aggressive whatsoever in the coverage of this catastrophe.
"Sadly, the majority of the victims appear to be children and elderly caregivers. Everybody’s trying to hang it on climate change to avoid the hard questions and answers. It sure looks like simple government mismanagement of resources and lack of emergency planning. How well the government functions in your local area is a huge part of your quality of life. Or it can lead to your death," @Seferyn wrote on X in response to Cernovich.
The latest report by CBS News has been the first that we have heard from the media about the number of children who have been killed by this disaster, but well-known cartoonist Scott Adams believes that Maui is not being forthright about how many of the missing are actually children.
Perhaps 1,000 or more children were burned to death. Cernovich presses us to not back down and not to let them forget or bury this tragedy. "There’s never been more real news. Not being covered. During Trump era 'news' had to be fabricated. Maui isn’t going anyway. Hundreds, maybe thousands of dead children," he wrote. "Don’t let them move on from Maui."
Although there are news outlets who are reporting on the tragedy, nobody can deny that this isn't getting nearly enough attention in the news that past events have. And yet this disaster has taken thousands of lives, most of them likely children. This should be all anyone can talk about in news segments, but it seems as though the media would rather cover up for President Biden's complete mishandling of this situation and divert attention away from the utter failure of the Hawaii government to protect its citizens, particularly the most vulnerable and innocent.
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