HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Some Lahaina residents who lost their homes are being forced to move from temporary housing as hotels prepare to welcome visitors back to West Maui.
Victims say the moves are traumatizing them all over again.
Charles Nahale lived in a family compound on Front Street in Lahaina and describes a harrowing escape driving north passed a barricade near the Civic Center.
He’s been back a few times since the Aug. 8 firestorm and saw the line of burned cars next to the ocean and his beloved home gone. “It was unrecognizable. It was like a bomb,” Nahale said.
“Apocalyptic, like a bomb had dropped. So quiet and eerie so I don’t need to go back.”
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Since the wildfire, Nahale has been living at the Sands of Kahana Resort.
But he recently got a letter from Soleil Management, which runs the resort. telling him the Red Cross had contracted to provide the housing but that his unit and others wouldn’t be available after Sept. 30. The letter also talked about “housing opportunities” through at least Oct. 30 at Kahana Villas Resort, Gardens at West Maui Resort and Maui Beach Resort in Kihei.
Nahale says so far, he’s gotten no word about alternative housing.
“We are all scrambling to try to find another place,” said Nahale.
“I think it’s a real disgrace for all of us that are displaced and lost everything,” he added.
In a statement, Red Cross spokesperson Matthew Wells said as “hotel consolidations” get underway in the days and weeks ahead, “some people will be relocated.”
“We will communicate all changes and expectations with the survivors and do our best to ensure the least amount of disruption to people’s lives as possible,” he said.
It’s unclear how many people are being asked to move.
Soleil did not respond to a request for comment, but said on its website that “with services and amenities slowly returning to our West Maui resort, we are gradually welcoming back reservations in October per the governor’s instruction. We want to acknowledge that the overall Maui experience for any/all visitors may not be optimal at this time.”
The issue of welcoming visitors back to West Maui on Oct. 8 has strong supporters and opponents.
For Nahale, the housing upheaval with reopening is a wound that’s too painful to bare.
“It’s traumatic. We haven’t had the chance to heal,” he said.
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