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August 14, 2023

As Pennsylvania sends rescue workers to Hawaii, here's how others can help relief efforts in Maui

Many people are still missing after a wildfire destroyed Lahaina last week. As of Sunday, only a small portion of the town had been searched

Two members of a Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency search and rescue task force have been deployed to support relief efforts in Maui, where wildfires killed at least 96 people and destroyed more than 2,700 structures last week. 

They will join a 28-member federal task force that will assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel that have been deployed to the island. First responders are still conducting search and rescue efforts. The task force is expected to be in Maui for at least two weeks, officials said.

The American Red Cross has sent more than 220 disaster workers to assist with temporary housing, emergency shelters, food distribution and emotional support. The Red Cross keeps disaster supplies on the island, so it was able to provide immediate relief last week.

Two volunteers from New Jersey, unaffiliated with the state's emergency response team, have flown to Hawaii to support the relief effort in partnership with Red Cross of New Jersey, CBS News reported. Several others have volunteered virtually, collecting donations and offering resources to displaced Hawaiians. 

About 500 hotel rooms in Hawaii have been set aside for FEMA workers, Gov. Josh Green told the Associated Press. Another 500 hotel rooms will be made available for displaced residents. Some hotels are continuing regular operations to preserve jobs and sustain the local economy. Tourists have been encouraged to leave Maui and visit Hawaii's other islands.

Lahaina, a popular tourist destination in Maui, was largely destroyed during the wildfires, though some structures remain intact. The wildfires were aided by Hurricane Dora, a category 4 storm that sent wind gusts of up to 81 mph across the island. 

The fire in Lahaina, which began Tuesday, spread through the coastal town at one mile per minute, NBC News reported.The fire is only about 85% contained, officials said Sunday. 

Only about 3% of the impacted area had been searched as of Sunday, and the death toll was expected to rise as search and rescue teams look for missing people within Maui's charred remains. Many schools in the area are expected to reopen Monday, with the Hawaii Department of Education writing a letter to staff and families, ensuring them that their jobs are safe. 

Hawaii's wildfire is the deadliest in the U.S. in the last 100 years, officials said. No cause has been determined, though experts say it may have been ignited by active power lines being knocked down by the high wind gusts. Recent drought conditions may have also contributed to the fire.  

How to help Maui wildfire relief efforts

There are plenty of ways to support relief and recovery efforts in Maui. The Red Cross is looking for volunteers to support Hawaiians virtually, and is also continuing to accept donations to support the relief effort. Check out the Red Cross' website to learn more, or text "HAWAII" to 90999 to donate $10. 

Former President Barack Obama, a Hawaii native, is among those helping to raise money for the Hawai'i Community Foundation's Maui Strong Fund. The fund is providing financial resources to support those impacted by the wildfires. 

Maui United Way and the Salvation Army of Maui County also are accepting monetary donations for victims and their families. The Maui Food Bank is accepting online donations and helping people host virtual food drives to help provide fresh, nutritious food for people displaced by the wildfires. 

Maui Rapid Response, a mutual aid fund, has been raising money for emergency supplies, food and other basic necessities to distribute to people staying in temporary housing or emergency shelters. Donations can be made online.