EPA deems about 40% of burnt Maui land parcels safe for residents to return

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(The Center Square) – The Environmental Protection Agency cleared more than 40% of the land parcels “of concern” in Maui, and people should be able to move into their homes in the coming weeks, according to Hawaii Gov. Josh Green.

The EPA identified 1,500 parcels that needed to be checked for hazardous materials. Green said about 637 properties are clear.

More than 7,500 displaced residents are in 40 hotels, Green said in his first update of the week on Monday.

“We’re going to make a lot more long-term housing available to people as we head towards the end of this month,” Green said. “Thousands of people have signed up for support from the American Red Cross and FEMA and we will be putting out very large grants from our Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to help people get through this.”

Recovery on Maui following the Aug. 8 fires has been marked with criticism over the official response, including not activating the sirens to warn residents.

Maui County Emergency Management Administrator Herman Andaya, who has since stepped down from the position, previously said he did not regret choosing to keep the sirens quiet.

Meanwhile, on the day of the fires, the largest school in Lahaina, Lahainaluna High School, was closed early due to a power outage caused by high winds, according to the school. A post on its official Facebook page encouraged students to stay at home, leaving more children home alone during the fires.

The official list of missing people has gone down from 3,200 to 31 as of this week, according to the Maui Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Just one is a minor.

The death toll decreased from 115 to 97, officials said.

More than 2,000 children were missing from the Lahaina school system shortly after the fires, but that number is now at 191, according to the Hawaii State Department of Education.

According to the report, of the 3,001 pre-registered students, 957 transferred to other schools, 958 applied for distance learning, 150 transferred to public charter schools, and 117 transferred to private schools, leaving 816 children missing. Of those 816, the DOE says it has contacted 628 of the students’ families.

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