Fire in Hawaii | Lahaina residents return home for the first time

(Honolulu) Nearly seven weeks after a massive wildfire ravaged their community, some residents of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui were able to temporarily return home Monday.

People who live in a first zone demarcated by the authorities, which extends over around twenty blocks, were able to return to their homes between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time.

The massive forest fire that swept through the region on August 8 claimed the lives of at least 97 people and destroyed more than 2,000 buildings, most of them residential units.

The possibility of returning to the site for the first time aroused strong emotions among residents, who had to flee in vehicles or on foot as the flames, driven by the wind, ravaged Lahaina, the historic capital of ancient Hawaiian kingdom.

In many cases, the fire was moving faster than motorists stuck on the roads, so some survivors were forced to jump over a sea wall to shelter in the waves.


View of Lahaina, August 10

From a National Guard post near the burned area, Jes Claydon could see the ruins of the rental home where she lived for 13 years and raised three children.

Today, almost nothing recognizable remains of this house, except for the jars that stood in front of the front door.

Mme So Claydon hoped she could salvage those jars and any other keepsakes she could find.

“I want to have the freedom to be there and really absorb what happened,” she testified. No matter what I find, even if it’s just the pots, I can’t wait to get them back, because it’s part of my home. »

M’s houseme Claydon was painted a reddish brown, similar to the red earth of Lahaina. Some walls are still standing and there is green grass left on the grounds, she said.

Supervised visits

Authorities have separated the burned region into 17 zones and dozens of subzones. Residents of the first zone — known as Zone 1C, in northern Lahaina — were allowed to return home during supervised visits Monday, and will be able to do so again Tuesday.


Vehicles burned at the entrance to Kaniau Road in Lahaina on September 24

Maui Emergency Management Agency Acting Administrator Darryl Oliveira said officials want to make sure residents have the space and privacy to grieve as they see fit. .

“Some people are going to want to go there for a very short time, just a few minutes, to at least say goodbye to their property,” Hawaii Governor Josh Green said last week.

“Other people may want to stay for several hours. [Les autorités] will be very accommodating. »

Those who visited on Monday had access to water, shaded areas, washing stations, portable toilets, medical and mental health care and transportation assistance if needed.

Nonprofits also offered them personal protective equipment, including masks and coveralls, as authorities warned the ashes could contain asbestos, lead, arsenic or other toxins .

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