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6 months after Maui fires, survivors reflect on experiences

Sixth months after wildfires spread across Maui, killing 100 people and devastating the community, residents of Lahaina share their recovery experiences and their hopes moving forward.

Lahaina resident Diana Tevaga, who has lived in a hotel since she lost her home in the wildfires, described watching reality TV and eating meals provided by Red Cross with other survivors struggling to adapt to post-wildfire society, the Guardian reported. 

“As soon as I wake up, there’s a physical tightness in my chest,” said Tevaga to the Guardian. “I worry about where we will go when the help runs out. I am grateful, but this hotel is not a home, it’s a shelter. It’s not right that so many of us are still here. How can we dream about rebuilding when we don’t have a stable home?”

Hawaiian Gov. Josh Green noted approximately 9,800 people were displaced after the outbreak of the wildfire, causing 4,900 residents to find temporary shelter in local hotels, according to KITV4 Island News

While the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement offered loans of up to $50,000 for homeowners to build back up their property in December 2023, thousands of survivors continue to grapple with the reality of lacking a stable living situation. 

ʻEkolu Lindsey, another resident of Lahaina, said he has moved into the Kāʻanapali Shores Condo Resort since the disaster. However, he noted he must find a new residency by the end of May, or otherwise he would have to move 22 miles away to a housing complex in Wailuku.

“You know, I never lived in a condominium before,” Lindsey said to Hawaiʻi Public Radio. “I’ve never had central air conditioning before. I’m just appreciative of having running water, hot water and everything else.” 

When Green reopened Maui to tourists last October, some Lahaina residents noted their frustrations.

Tevega, one of many who believe the government should prioritize recovery efforts for its residents, described feeling “stunned” when federal agencies proposed she should relocate off the island or resort to apartments where her pets would not be allowed, according to the Guardian.  

“Maui is my home, and these fur babies are my family,” said Tevaga to the Guardian. “It is so traumatizing, having to repeat my story over and over again. I’ve worked with tourists my entire adult life, but I’m so angry that it’s hard to be around them now. We’re tired of broken promises … it’s not easy staying hopeful.”

Hawaiian resident Victoria Martocci, who is working to recover her scuba diving business, described the community as a “painful Venn diagram,” in which all residents have either faced the loss of a loved one, their household or their business, New York Times noted.  

“The place we all knew and loved is forever changed,” Martocci said to New York Times. “We just know we have to keep moving forward and find some sense of normalcy.”

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