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Some of the nation’s most beautiful places were destroyed this week when wildfires ripped through parts of Maui, leaving much of the idyllic town of Lahaina in charred ruins. President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration yesterday, greenlighting assistance from the federal government. But that doesn’t mean this disaster aid response will happen quickly and smoothly.

To get an idea of what kind of help Hawaiians should expect, I turned to Ivis García, a Texas A&M University urban planner who has researched disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. “Everything about the immediate response to a disaster in places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico is more expensive than on the mainland,” she explained. And the state’s high housing costs could lead some local residents to leave – possibly for good.

Tourism plays a huge role in the economy across Hawaii, especially on Maui. Rich Harrill, a professor of hospitality and tourism at the University of South Carolina, predicts that the long-term outlook for an economic rebound on Maui is strong.

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Emily Schwartz Greco

Philanthropy + Nonprofits Editor

A wildfire burns in Kihei, Hawaii, on Aug. 9, 2023. AP Photo/Ty O'Neil

Maui wildfires: Extra logistical challenges hinder government’s initial response when disasters strike islands

Ivis García, Texas A&M University

An expert on Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria explains why it’s hard for the US to deliver disaster aid in places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

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