Pentagon Sends 700 Military Personnel Aid for Maui Recovery

Naveen Athrappully
By Naveen Athrappully
August 19, 2023US News
Pentagon Sends 700 Military Personnel Aid for Maui Recovery
Burned cars and homes in a neighborhood that was destroyed by a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, are seen on Aug. 17, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Pentagon has deployed around 700 personnel in Maui to assist in recovery following the devastating wildfires ravaging the region.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has 691 personnel on the ground in Maui who are engaged in planning, synchronizing, and coordinating support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state of Hawaii. The workforce is engaged in the transportation of cargo, personnel, supplies, and equipment, and standing by for aerial fire suppression. The DoD is also providing support for billeting, life support, and hygiene facilities for federal emergency workers.

Search and rescue teams are currently conducting searches over wide areas. Two CH-47 Chinook helicopters are aiding in fire suppression with water buckets. Joint Task Force (JTF) 5-0 is engaged in 24-hour security operations in the town of Lahaina, along with maintaining traffic control points.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has transported 32 FEMA generators to Maui. Six forensic anthropologists are involved in gathering and identifying human remains.

The military is also expected to take part in engineering and damage assessment as well as rebuilding efforts.

NTD Photo
Cars wait in line on Lahaina Bypass road to go to Lahaina in the aftermath of the Maui wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Aug. 16, 2023.  (Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images)

“I want to reiterate our commitment to the residents of Maui County and the broader Hawaiian community. The combined strength of our military and civilian partners is making a significant impact on the ground, and I’m immensely proud of every individual contributing to these efforts,” Army Brig. Gen. Stephen F. Logan said during a press conference on Friday.

Over 1,000 federal responders are currently in Maui, including 350 members from the search and rescue team together with the canine squad. Almost 6,000 survivors of the wildfires have registered for federal assistance.

Survivors who are yet to register for assistance can do so by visiting, calling 1-800-621-3362, or via the FEMA app.

Emergency Head Resigns

According to the County of Maui, there were 114 confirmed deaths as of Aug. 18. The most destructive of the fires in Lahaina has been 90 percent contained. It has burned through an estimated 2,168 acres of land. The Olinda fire that burned around 1,081 acres is 85 percent contained.

“When a fire is 100 percent contained, it does not mean it has been extinguished. It means that firefighters have the blaze fully surrounded. A fire is declared ‘extinguished’ when fire personnel believe there is nothing left burning,” the county clarified.

The exact number of missing people in the Maui fire is unclear as thousands are displaced, and search and rescue missions are ongoing. FEMA has declined to give an estimate of the number.

NTD Photo
Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya speaks during a news conference in Wailuku, Hawaii, on Aug. 16, 2023. (Mike Householder/AP Photo)

In an interview with CBS earlier this week on Monday, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green noted that around 1,300 people were unaccounted for. He also projected the final death toll to reach as high as 300, which is more than two and a half times what’s currently reported.

Amid the catastrophe, Maui Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Administrator Herman Andaya submitted his resignation from the post on Thursday to Mayor Richard Bissen, citing health reasons.

“Given the gravity of the crisis we are facing, my team and I will be placing someone in this key position as quickly as possible, and I look forward to making that announcement soon,” Mr. Bissen said, according to an Aug. 17 press release.

On Wednesday, Mr. Andaya said he had “no regret” for not using the emergency warning sirens installed in Maui. He pointed out that the sirens are usually used to alert people about tsunamis and that people are trained to move to higher ground when sirens are turned on.

“If that was the case, then they would have gone into the fire,” he said.

There are no sirens on the mountainside where the fire was spreading down. “So even if we sounded the siren, we would not have saved those people out there on the mountainside,” Mr. Andaya insisted.

Dangerous Aftermath

Hawaii’s state health department is asking residents to exercise caution when going back to their properties in Lahaina due to the risk of toxic contaminants.

NTD Photo
Volunteers work with donated supplies at Buzz’s Wharf in Lahaina, Maui, on Aug. 12, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

“Dangers include ash that may contain toxic and cancer-causing chemicals,” the agency said. “Debris including broken glass, exposed electrical wires, nails, wood, plastics, and other objects” can also pose risks. “Unstable buildings and structures may contain hazardous materials and could collapse and cause injury.”

County officials are urging people to use personal protective equipment (PPE) when visiting properties. People should avoid all burn areas.

Residents have been advised not to eat in any burned areas or consume food exposed to ash, smoke, or dust. All fruits and vegetables must be washed and rinsed before eating.

“Keep children away—children should not help with clean-up efforts and should not be near, or play near, areas with ash or debris.”

Burned structures pose the risk of asbestos or lead contamination. Asbestos is known to be carcinogenic that can lead to chronic lung disease and cancers.

Lead poisoning can cause permanent damage to the brain and reduce intelligence. If pregnant women are exposed to lead, the development of the fetus can get affected.

From The Epoch Times

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