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Opening, Closing of Highway Angers Maui Residents

Officials say people are breeching barricades and entering dangerous areas
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2023 5:50 PM CDT
Opening, Closing of Highway Angers Maui Residents
A woman walks through wildfire wreckage Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Hawaii emergency management records show no indication that warning sirens sounded before people ran for their lives from wildfires on Maui that killed multiple people and wiped out a historic town. Instead, officials...   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A chaotic scene developed Saturday on Maui as residents trying to return to their homes and businesses in Lahaina after the wildfires grew frustrated by the repeated opening and closing of the main highway to the community. Steven and Giulietta Daiker told CNN that after three hours, they had almost reached the main checkpoint, only to be told they'd have to turn around. "They couldn't have told us that three miles back, or couldn't have been on a bullhorn or on the radio?" Steven Daiker said. "This is just pathetic." Some said they were trying to take relief supplies to Lahaina. Police said they closed the roadway at times because people were climbing over barricades and going into restricted and dangerous areas. CNN posted a dizzying time lapse of the vehicle backup here.

In other developments:

  • Shelter needed: Emergency officials are trying to find shelter for as many as many as 4,500 displaced people, per the AP. The Sheraton Hotel in Maui has 200 rooms available, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. Many disaster responders need a place to say, too. The Hawaii Red Cross said that it and its partners had provided a total of almost 2,900 overnight shelter in the past few nights, per the New York Times.
  • The cost: FEMA's first estimate for rebuilding is in: $5.52 billion. The agency counts at least 2,200 structures damaged or destroyed, most of them residences, and more than 2,100 acres burned. A former FEMA official who now runs an insurance research group had a caution about the figure. "Every estimate we hear during the first week is someone's best approximation, and it's wrong," Roy Wright said. "We just don't know enough yet."
  • Federal response: Personnel from more than a dozen agencies, including the National Guard and Department of Health and Human Services, have been dispatched to help with the recovery. Teams from the Army Corps of Engineers are helping handle the debris and set up temporary power. FEMA said it has 150 people in Hawaii now.
  • Health warnings: When they reach Lahaina, the state health department warns, residents should be careful in the "highly toxic" burn areas. The agency advises wearing a tight-fitting N95 mask and other protective equipment and watch out for ash and ash pits, which can still cause burns, per USA Today.
  • Roots on fire: A photographer who was with crews fighting the fires said roots are burning underground, which can lead to fires springing up. "You would think there's no fire there, but when you take the temperature of the soil, it's 180, 200 degrees in the soil because those roots are burning," Daniel Sullivan told CNN.
(More Maui stories.)

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