Hawaii fires: Residents claim people being ‘robbed at gunpoint’ in Maui amid ‘lack of leadership’

Local residents in Hawaii’s Maui are claiming they are being looted and robbed at gunpoint after catastrophic fires ravaged parts of the island.

The wildfires in Maui have become the deadliest in modern US history and have so far led to the deaths of 96 people, apart from widespread devastation of property.

And now locals have said they are growing increasingly desperate for effective local leadership to step up and take control of the emergency response amid accusations of an increase in crime.

They are annoyed that the leadership has been lax and not really stepping up, leaving residents to rise to the occasion and take reigns into their own hands.

As rescue teams traverse the island, delivering essential supplies such as water, food and first aid, reports said locals are now taking matters in their own hands to address the situation.

“There’s some police presence. There’s some small military presence, but at night people are being robbed at gunpoint,” Matt Robb, co-owner of a Lahaina bar called The Dirty Monkey was quoted as saying by Business Insider.

“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.”

People also told KITV4 that residents of West Maui were frequently falling victim to theft, with essential supplies such as food and clothing being targeted. They attributed this to insufficient resources reaching Lahaina.

Jeremy Aganos, the owner of Coconut Caboose, a restaurant and food truck business in Lahaina, said he lost his home and barely made it out alive. He said looters attacked his business and that it was “utter chaos” for everyone to try and find the basic essentials like water, food and shelter.

Another resident, Barrett Procell, said that he and his wife were now homeless and only wearing donated clothes. Mr Procell, however, added that looters right now were not the enemies. “They are in survival mode.”

“When your children and are here starving after almost burning to death and the police won’t let people drive in to give you necessities, you may turn to desperate measures. It is unfortunate people are turning to looting right now, but it’s about helping them and not villainising them,” Mr Procell said.

The Maui Police said that no official reports of looting have been filed.

Amid calls for more support, a tense situation unfolded recently on 11 August after police officers blocked access to a key motorway leading to Lahaina, spurring a clash between the police and nearly 100 residents, according to a report by the Honolulu Star Register newspaper.

Police action reportedly prevented individuals from returning to their homes to retrieve salvageable belongings, resulting in a near-riot scenario.

Residents have complained of feeling abandoned by local leadership.

“It’s just been really interesting to see how, when you have a full truck of a pallet of water or feminine products or whatever, and you’re trying to help people – that you’re being turned away,” Mr Robb said.

“And I think there’s a better way to organise that to be done, I just don’t think it’s been done the correct way. I think it comes down to the lack of leadership and the lack of knowledge of how to handle this.”

“I think it’s the mayor’s fault,” co-owner of the Dirty Monkey Alen Aivazian told Insider.

“If he would’ve asked, they had Marines, Coast Guards sitting there waiting, ready to go, and he didn’t send them over. Why wouldn’t the feds send them over? The mayor didn’t ask and the governor didn’t push. I mean, what the hell are they doing over there? They’re just hanging out at the beach.”

Residents said they are foregoing sleep and establishing neighbourhood patrols to ensure mutual safety and secure vital supplies like clean drinking water and medications.

Another Maui resident, Kami Irwin, said, “I had to deal with a situation that wasn’t even part of who I am or what I do.”

“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.”

“We literally have no idea because we are not hearing answers from anybody,” she said.

“We are still left without knowing what to do. And we just got word that they stopped all air and ground transportation to drop more supplies to the west side of Lahaina today.”

After visiting “ground zero” of the destruction in Lahaina, Hawaii governor Josh Green said it is clear “there is very little left there”.

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