Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomehawaiiLahaina residents petition Hawaii Gov. Josh Green to delay tourism reopening

Lahaina residents petition Hawaii Gov. Josh Green to delay tourism reopening

Residents from fire-stricken Lahaina on Tuesday delivered a petition asking Hawaii Gov. Josh Green to delay plans to reopen a portion of West Maui to tourism starting this weekend, saying the grieving community is not ready to welcome back visitors.

The petition signed by 3,517 people from West Maui zip codes comes amid a fierce and anguished debate over when travelers should return to the region home to the historic town of Lahaina that was destroyed in the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. At least 98 people died in the Aug. 8 blaze and more than a dozen are missing. The first phase of the plan to reopen Maui to tourists begins Sunday, the two-month anniversary of the disaster.

Though many residents say they are not ready, others say they need tourism so they can work in hotels and restaurants to earn a living.

“But what I say to them is think of your neighbor or think of the business next door to you,” Green said. “Or think of the impact of having only, say, 40% of the travelers that we normally have to Maui.”

The governor said a lack of tourism would make it harder for the state to rebuild the elementary school that burned in the fire and provide residents with healthcare coverage.

Charles Nahale, a musician who lost all his gigs singing and playing the ukulele and guitar for tourists, recounted recently seeing tourists at a restaurant a few miles from the burn zone. They appeared oblivious and unsympathetic to those around them, he said.

“This is not a normal tourist destination like it was prior to the fire,” he said by telephone from Lahaina. “You shouldn’t be there expecting people to serve you your mai tais and your food.”

Nahale said grieving was more critical to him than getting back to work.

“What is more important to me is that these thousands, including me, have the time to heal,” he said. “What’s more important to me is that we have the time to be normal again.”

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