The Hawaii Department of Transportation is helping reopen roadways and speed up delivery of humanitarian aid after wildfires torched wide swaths of the western side of the Hawaiian island of Maui, with the area surrounding the town of Lāhainā the hardest hit.
[Above photo by the Hawaii Governor’s Office]
Governor Josh Green (D), Deanne Criswell – administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – and other officials recently toured the western area on Maui devastated by the wildfires, which struck on August 9.
The fires destroyed an estimated 2,200 homes, buildings, and other structures, numerous vehicles, and resulted in the confirmed loss of more than 100 lives – with more expected in the weeks ahead, as over 1,000 people remain missing – along with economic damage predicted to top $6 billion, according to the governor.
The Maui wildfires are the deadliest in the United States in more than a century, surpassing the California’s 2018 Camp Fire, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
To date, Gov. Green has issued five emergency proclamations, which suspend laws to facilitate emergency response, recovery, and rebuilding. That latest proclamation lifted the $10 million cap on expenditures from the Major Disaster Fund to respond to this emergency and discourages nonessential travel to West Maui to free up accommodations for displaced residents and emergency workers.
The governor’s office noted that the disaster emergency relief period for Maui is expected to continue through August 31.
Meanwhile, the Hawaii DOT is waiving all wharf charges for cargo inbound to Kahului Harbor to support humanitarian relief to Maui through September 10.
“We have to offer any help we can at this time for the people of Maui. This will lessen the burden on shipping necessities to many who now have nothing,” said Hawaii DOT Director Ed Sniffen in a statement. “We will continue to look at ways we can help the people of Lāhainā and West Maui as we move forward.”
The agency is also installing dust screens in the Lāhāina town area to reduce the spread of potentially hazardous materials across the roadways. This measure is being taken to protect highway users along Honoapiʻilani Highway (Route 30) and the Lāhāina Bypass (Route 3000). Full installation of those dust screens is anticipated to be complete within a month and they will remain in place, maintained by Hawaiian DOT crew, until further notice.
Gov. Green noted in a separate statement that the state has reopened the Honoapiʻilani Highway and Lāhāina Bypass for all motorists from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. but is restricting travel access on those roads to West Maui residents, first responders, and West Maui employees from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
“We are prioritizing the reopening of this passage to ensure access for first responders, medical professionals, residents of West Maui, and the public,” he said. “Motorists should expect delays because some areas still contain debris and the highway will be restricted to one lane at certain areas. The impact zone remains off-limits due to the active search and recovery efforts. Please be vigilant as you drive.”