Housing task force created for Maui victims as death toll climbs
by Kim Jarrett, The Center Square, Aug 13, 2023
(The Center Square) - Gov. Josh Green said a temporary housing task force is working to secure housing for Maui victims and rescue workers as the death toll has reached at least 89.
The governor, local officials and emergency personnel gave an update late Saturday on rescue efforts that some have criticized. Most victims are not identified, according to Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier.
"The remains we are finding is through a fire that melted metal," Pelletier told reporters. "We have to do rapid DNA to identify them. Everyone of these 89 are John and Jane Does."
Some media outlets reported the number of deaths at 93.
Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said no one is being allowed in the impacted zone, which is hazardous.
“We’re not doing anybody any favors by letting them back in there quickly, just so they can get sick," Bissen said. "That can wait. A lot of what’s happening now is, we’re asking for the respect and dignity of recovering anyone who is still there … That’s the phase we’re in.”
Green asked people to understand why they could not visit the affected areas.
“The reason is the health consequences, the heavy metals … the recommendations are to avoid the structures because they could still fall on people and we’ve lost too much life already," said Green, who is a medical doctor.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Deanne Criswell visited Maui on Saturday.
"What I always find, even during these incredibly tragic times, is the resilience of a community to come together … it always gives me hope that we will be able to rebuild,” she said. “We are going to be here every step of the way, to help this community recover. We already have 150 people on the ground and we have more coming."
President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration on Thursday. Green said the housing task force is working with the federal government.
"We’ve already secured 1,000 rooms," Green said. "Five hundred rooms will go to families that have been displaced because of the terrible fire, the other 500 rooms will go to support, initially …In the days that follow, we’ll have long-term rentals, those are the short-term rentals-turned-long-term. All of that is going to be covered, some by the state, some it’s going to be given charitably and finally, FEMA will cover a great deal of the cost."