Maui wildfire survivors plea for increased aid and insurance payouts as Hawaiian Electric deflects responsibility


If you are a resident or worker in Maui affected by the fires or impacted in the aftermath and want to share your story click here to contact the WSWS.

On Thursday, about 40 people attended a public Hawaii State Senate field hearing at the Lahaina Civic Center on Maui. Hawaii, which became the 50th state of the US in 1959, has been ruled by Democratic Party since 1962. This hearing was led by Democratic state senators Jarrett Keohokalole (representing Windward Oahu), Lorraine Inouye (Hilo), Angus McKelvey (West Maui), Herbert Richards III (north shore of Hawaii Island) and Republican state senator Brenton Awa (Kaneohe, Kahuku, Schofield Barracks).

Black tarps have been erected along the roadway to block the view of destroyed homes

The hearing was held in-person and on Zoom and led by the five Hawaii state senators to ostensibly put pressure on the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) and the department’s insurance division to work harder on behalf of the survivors of the August 8 fire disaster in West Maui which destroyed much of the city of Lahaina.

On display at this hearing, like so many others, was the callous indifference and hostility of the government as working class victims emotionally described their trauma having lost everything.

Several fire survivors spoke passionately about the dire conditions they are facing because of the lack of response by government officials. 

Michelle Vu-Tran, a 50-year-old Vietnamese Lahaina resident, testified, “My house is still standing, but it’s not livable, I’ve been displaced since August 8, I haven’t seen my house. I called my insurance, and they said my house has not been burned, according to a Google map. But it’s a warzone. We cannot live in there. There’s no electricity, no water. My car exploded on Front Street as I tried to run away. I got caught in the fire, and I had to jump into the ocean with my husband behind a sea wall for 12 hours. I am so lucky that I am alive.”

“There were about 20 cars on Front Street, and anytime a car exploded, we couldn’t breathe. I clung to the rocks, I cannot swim. I couldn’t open my eyes because they burned. I thought I was already blind. My throat closed, we drank water just so we could breathe. We thought we died because we couldn’t breathe. We tied our hands together to make sure that if our bodies washed to sea, they would find our bodies together.”

Vu-Tran added that she and her husband were on the cusp of working fewer days a week before the disaster. “I have two daughters who just graduated. … We told each other we would soon reduce working to five days a week, so we can enjoy life. But now my life is upside down. My house is not livable. I can’t go back… My whole neighborhood burned down.

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