Lack of Governmental Leadership in Maui leaving locals to take care of one another

Important Takeaways:

  • Maui fire survivors describe nighttime looting and rerouted supply drops as they say local leadership botches emergency response
  • Maui residents are becoming increasingly desperate for local leadership to take control of the emergency response to the catastrophic fires that leveled parts of the Hawaiian island and left at least 93 dead.
  • While rescue crews made their way across the island with water, food, and first aid, locals told Insider supply drops were being rerouted and anguished residents were taking matters into their own hands.
  • “There’s some police presence. There’s some small military presence, but at night, people are being robbed at gunpoint,” Matt Robb, a co-owner of a Lāhainā bar called The Dirty Monkey, told Insider. “People are raped and pillaged. I mean, they’re going through houses — and then by day, it’s hunky-dory. So where is the support? I don’t think our government and our leaders, at this point, know how to handle this or what to do.”
  • Kami Irwin, a Maui resident helping to coordinate relief efforts “I had to deal with a situation that wasn’t even part of who I am or what I do,” Irwin said. “I had to talk to pilots that got grounded with our medical supplies who were stuck on the Big Island because the Department of Health stopped them from transporting insulin. And we have people all over the island that need insulin.”
  • She said residents chose to take matters into their own hands after realizing they were repeatedly seeing the same local volunteers, not government officials, coordinating aid efforts.

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U.S. adds social distancing to Atlantic hurricane season emergency response plan

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – With the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season fast approaching, U.S. officials on Thursday said they were readying more buses, hotel rooms and shelter space for social distancing to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus during potential evacuations.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a telephone briefing that it anticipated a higher-than-average number of storms during the U.S. storm season beginning on June 1. It urged states and cities to step up their preparations.

“COVID will make it a little more difficult,” FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor said, referring to the disease caused by the virus. “We’re asking local leaders to think about how they will manage evacuating and shelter. You’re going to need extra space.”

Last year, there were about 15 hurricane-related deaths in the United States, and at least 70 in the Bahamas, where Hurricane Dorian caused billions of dollars in damage.

COVID-19 has killed more than 73,000 people in the United States in the past two months.

In partnership with the American Red Cross, FEMA said it was preparing to house more evacuees in hotel rooms where families can stay, instead of packing them into shelters. They are also working to provide more buses to transport evacuees to avoid tight conditions.

An official estimate on the number of storms during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30, is expected to be released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on May 21.

But several forecasters see a more active season than average, with 18 named tropical storms and eight hurricanes.

Last year there were 12 named storms of which, seven strengthened into hurricanes, including two major ones, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The most deadly storm was Dorian, which ravaged the Bahamas, killed scores and left whole communities obliterated.

Gaynor said FEMA had more money than ever going into the hurricane season, with $6 billion devoted to federal response to the pandemic that officials could on draw on, as well as $80 billion remaining in disaster relief funds.

Brad Kieserman, vice president for disaster operations and logistics at the American Red Cross, said his organization had reserved more than 20,000 overnight stays at thousands of hotels.

“I can’t reinforce enough: our goal collectively is to keep people safe,” he said.

FEMA is also working to provide more face masks and other protective gear to help states fight COVID-19, as many hospitals and other U.S. facilities struggle to maintain enough masks and protective gear.

FEMA is also working with states to maximize each state’s ability to test for the virus, Gaynor said, but each state must decide how many people get tested.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Tom Brown)

Study estimates Puerto Rico deaths from Hurricane Maria at nearly 3,000

FILE PHOTO: A woman looks as her husband climbs down a ladder at a partially destroyed bridge, after Hurricane Maria hit the area in September, in Utuado, Puerto Rico, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/File Photo

(Reuters) – Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, is estimated to account for nearly 3,000 deaths, far more than the official toll of 64, according to a study commissioned by the island’s government and released on Tuesday.

The report found that 2,975 deaths could be attributed directly or indirectly to Maria from the time it struck in September 2017 to mid-February of this year, based on comparisons between predicted mortality under normal circumstances and deaths documented after the storm.

The study, conducted by George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, also found that the risk of death from the hurricane was substantially higher for the poor and elderly men.

The report was conducted in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Health and was commissioned by Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello.

A previous study from a Harvard University-led research team released in May estimated that 4,645 lives were lost from Maria on the Caribbean island, and a Pennsylvania State University study put the number at 1,085.

The emergency response to the storm became highly politicized as the Trump administration was criticized as being slow to recognize the gravity of the devastation and too sluggish in providing disaster relief to Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of more than 3 million residents.

The storm made landfall on Puerto Rico with winds close to 150 miles per hour (241 kph) on Sept. 17 and plowed a path of destruction across the island, causing property damage estimated at $90 billion and leaving much of the island without electricity for months.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Philippines ready food, shelter as super typhoon Haima advances

Evacuees from the coastal villages take shelter inside an evacuation center as Typhoon Haima locally name Lawin approaches, in Alcala town, Cagayan province, north of Manila

By Beh Lih Yi

JAKARTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Aid agencies were on standby on Wednesday to respond to the strongest typhoon to threaten the Philippines in three years, which was due to make landfall later in the day with widespread damage expected.

Typhoon Haima has been labeled a category 5 storm on a scale of 1 to 5 by Tropical Storm Risk and could cause flooding, landslides and storm surges of up to five meters (16.5 ft), the weather bureau said.

The Philippine authorities have raised storm warning signals for the northern and eastern parts of main island of Luzon, and ordered evacuation with some flights suspended and sea travel banned.

Save the Children said it has stockpiles of relief items – including emergency shelter kits, hygiene kits, water and sanitation items – which are kept in warehouses and ready to be dispatched.

“Typhoon Haima is bearing down on the northern Philippines and looks capable of causing significant damage to homes, and community infrastructure,” the aid agency’s country director for the Philippines Ned Olney said.

“With such powerful winds and many homes situated along the coast, the potential for damage is high.”

Olney said the children’s charity was concerned about the impact of the storm on children, who are particularly vulnerable during emergencies.

The Philippine Red Cross said its staff and emergency response teams have been placed on “high alert” and are ready to deploy as Haima could have “significant humanitarian impact” if it continues on its projected course.

The aid agency was working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to ready tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats and other essentials for 20,000 families.

Typhoon Haima poses a serious threat to local food security, as Central Luzon is where most of the country’s rice is grown.

“The country’s major river and catch basins are also located in Luzon, which could overflow if heavy rains continue,” the IFRC said in a statement.

Children’s charity Plan International also said it was on standby to families in the typhoon’s path were given food, shelter, clean water and basic sanitation as quickly as possible.

Haima was approaching the Philippines with maximum sustained winds of 225kph and gusts of 315kph, according to weather officials.

The Philippines is one of the most disaster-hit countries in the world, suffering an average of 20 major typhoons each year. Haima is the 12th typhoon to hit the Southeast Asian nation this year.

Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the central Philippines in 2013 and killed at least 6,000 people.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit