Mindful of the Hawaiian Islands’ sad history, community leaders moved quickly to take care of themselves rather than wait for help from Washington, Lansford said.
“Our community is the one stepping up,” he said. “If you look at all of the different relief aid stops and centers, you’ll see there is a native Hawaiian in charge of every single one. Native Hawaiians have shouldered the relief effort because they do not expect help from the local or federal government. It comes from the belief that if we don’t do something, we’re going to die. They’re not coming to help us.”
So far, Lansford said, they have yet to see much help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I don’t know what FEMA came here with, because I haven’t seen it yet,” he said.
FEMA encouraged survivors Monday to register with the government as soon as possible for temporary housing and other assistance, including immediate payments of $700 to cover food and water.
FEMA requires them to apply through a smartphone app or on its website, but the hardest-hit parts of Maui, on the western side of the island, are still without power and internet service, Rawlins-Fernandez said.
In their latest update Tuesday, FEMA officials said they had already distributed $2 million in emergency aid to 1,200 fire survivors.
Rawlins-Fernandez pointed out that the aid centers set up by state and local officials are on the other side of Maui in the town of Paia, “which is 10 miles away from where the fires were, and people can’t drive over because their cars were burned or because they don’t have gas.”
In contrast, the distribution hubs established by native Hawaiians and other residents are much closer to the hardest-hit people, she said.
“Having smaller hubs run by community leaders that they can reach is really important, but those aren’t getting supplies,” she said. “So we are trying to bring those supplies closer to the people.”
Self-help was on display at the Hawaiian Canoe Club in Kahului where 23-year-old Hiilei Luuwai was helping collect food, drinks, First Aid items, solar lamps, batteries, diapers destined for the desperate people still in and around Lahaina.