HONOLULU (KHON2) — At the University of Hawaii Maui College experts are at the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Recovery Center. Families are arriving looking for help while still processing their traumatic experiences of escaping the Maui wildfires and figuring out their path forward.
Lahaina resident Melchor-Jay Tomboc said he’s lucky to be alive. He narrowly escaped the Lahaina fire with his family shielded by the seawall where they watched the devastation unfold for five hours in the water.
“When we got out of the house I drove to Front Street. We got stuck there so I had to try turn around but there was fire everywhere,” said Tomboc.
The Tomboc family is just one of many impacted by the devastation now receiving assistance at the DRC.
While grieving the loss of his father Alfredo Galinato who was killed in the Lahaina fire Joshua Galinato is looking for answers for his family.
“You know we need some aid you know,” said Joshua. “We don’t know what’s the next plan from here, we’re just gathering as much information from here to get us prepared for what’s next.”
FEMA said the disaster recovery center is equipped to help impacted families register for aid and even replace any documents that have been lost in the fire.
FEMA is also working on mobile assistance centers and already has a team authorized to go door to door.
The center is just one of the resources for those in need.
World Central Kitchen is also set up at Maui College helping deliver meals to displaced and impacted Maui residents.
Among the volunteers is Lahaina resident Mark Bettencourt who lost everything — his house and his pets.
But he shows up every day through the pain.
Bettencourt said it’s going to be a long journey ahead but with the right resources and the community working together, it can be done.
“Maui means Maui no ka oi, Maui is the best,” said Bettencourt.
The DCR is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Maui College Student Center.
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A federal disaster resource fair is also happening on Saturday in Kihei.