US Representative Jill Tokuda (HI-02) on Thursday morning gave testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on the deadly Maui fires. The Subcommittee is investigating the role that electric infrastructure played in the fires.
Tokuda said she wants answers to so many questions that remain: “Not a day has gone by that I don’t ask myself questions. How did this happen? What could have been done differently? How do we make sure this never happens again? How do we keep our people safe? What now?”
She said one questions sticks with her: “A woman approached me and asked if I could please find her husband. They’d gone to all the shelters, hospitals, given a DNA sample. What should they do now? She showed me a picture of her husband’s burned up truck and asked me why the backdoor was open? Did he escape? Where is he now?”
While she could not answer her questions that day, but looked for the man’s name on every list that came out. First, it was on the list of the missing. Then a few weeks ago, identified among the dead.
“I share this with you because there are many questions about this tragedy that must be answered. People want answers. People want accountability,” said Rep. Tokuda.
While it’s been almost two months, most still have not seen what remains of their homes, with the first Lahaina residents being allowed to enter their properties just this week past week.
“The question we need to be focused on right now,” Rep. Tokuda said, “is how do we keep the help coming to Maui? We are two days away from a shutdown. Our people have gone through enough, the wheels of government must keep turning to provide support and resources, so they focus on recovery and rebuilding.”
Rep. Tokuda said that even before the disaster, it was known that Lahaina is not unique among rural and remote communities across the country that “have not received enough investment and where ensuring access to services is a constant struggle.”
“This tragedy has highlighted the disparities that exist in energy, telecommunications, transportation, and water infrastructure. Our rural communities lack access to health care and mental health services, emergency services, and more,” said Rep. Tokuda.
As various local, state, and federal entities continue to investigate the cause of the Maui wildfires and the emergency response across all levels of government, Rep. Tokuda said the human element of the tragedy must not be forgotten.
“Behind the whirlwind of investigations and litigation that have emerged from this disaster is a community still healing and fighting every day to recover and rebuild,” she said.
She concluded: “Like you and I, our people have questions. We all deserve answers. Right now, the most important question must be, how do we keep the help coming?”