Green: 99% of area affected by Maui fires searched

A view of Maui’s rugged beauty. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

(The Center Square) – Searchers have combed about 99% of the area affected by this month’s fires in Maui except for some areas near the waterway that the Coast Guard is searching, Gov. Josh Green said Tuesday.

The governor said in an update on social media that the urban search and rescue team was dismissed, but 538 Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel remain on the island.

The fires that swept through Maui three weeks ago killed 115 people, and others are still missing.

Survivors who lost their homes are housed in other places, including 19 hotels that currently have 5,456 people displaced by the fire. Another 1,100 are in vacation homes, Green said.

“This is going to become very central to our response, because we want to get people about 18 months of housing,” Green said. “We are working on that right now.”

FEMA approved 4,232 applications for assistance, the governor said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will oversee debris removal, state and local officials said Tuesday.

“With the selection of the Army Corps of Engineers, Maui will be in a good position to have the critical and extensive work of debris removal paid for with federal resources,” said Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen in a news release.

Green said the area will be built back in a way that honors its history and culture.

“In discussions with FEMA, we reached an understanding that extra consideration will be given to embedding Hawaii’s cultural experts into the mission,” the governor said. “There will also be a focus on utilizing local businesses and paying prevailing wages for the debris removal effort.”

Removing debris is considered Phase 2 of the recovery efforts. It begins with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removing hazardous household materials from the site, according to a news release. Officials said they are developing that timeline.

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