Hawaii & Alaska
Search and recovery team members check charred buildings and cars in the aftermath of the Maui wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 18, 2023. (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)

HI - Lahaina residents ask governor to delay reopening to tourists

Lahaina, Hawaii, residents are asking Gov. Josh Green (D) for more time before reopening West Maui to tourism, which he is planning to do this weekend.

More than 3,000 residents in West Maui ZIP codes signed a petition that was delivered to the governor Tuesday, according to The Associated Press. People from the area say they still are struggling with the emotional weight and other lasting effects of the devastating fire that tore through the area in August, killing at least 98 people.

“We are not mentally nor emotionally ready to welcome and serve our visitors. Not yet,” said Pa‘ele Kiakona, a restaurant bartender, at a news conference before the petition was delivered, according to the AP. “Our grief is still fresh and our losses too profound.”

Green said he was “sympathetic” to people’s pain on the Hawaii News Now program “Spotlight Now” following the petition’s delivery, according to the AP. He also noted that more than 8,000 people lost jobs because of the fire.

“It’s my job as governor to support them, to be thoughtful about all people and to make sure Maui survives, because people will otherwise go bankrupt and have to leave the island, have to move out of Maui,” he said, according to the AP. “Local people — these are middle-class people that lived in Lahaina — will have to leave if they don’t have jobs.”

After the fire, the number of visitors to Maui dropped by 70 percent, according to the AP. Economists from the University of Hawaii estimate unemployment will rise to more than 10 percent, compared to 2.5 percent in July.

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