PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As the number of fatalities continues to rise in Hawaii after last week’s devastating fires, help continues to pour in from across the country.
Nearly a week ago, the town of Lahaina on the island of Maui was almost entirely destroyed by wildfires that have since been deemed the deadliest in the United States in more than a century.
The American Red Cross said 10 volunteers from New England, including nine from Connecticut and one from Rhode Island, have stepped up to help in the relief efforts both on the ground and virtually.
The volunteers are assisting in everything from immediate needs to reunifying families who’ve lost contact with their loved ones.
“This is going to take months, and probably years to get back to normal, if you can use that word normal,” volunteer Lori Merker-Chapman said. “So, it’s a long road ahead.”
Merker-Chapman is one volunteer working to bring families back together. She said roughly 70 volunteers have been tasked with that job for the people of Hawaii, gathering information on their missing family members and then checking shelters and databases.
“In the last 24 hours, we’ve had 1,400 calls,” she said. “For families who maybe have someone missing or can’t find them or haven’t heard from them, they call 1-800-RED-CROSS and we do what we can to put those folks back together.”
With mass power outages, it’s been a difficult task.
“It’s a process, and it’s a timely process, so I’m just asking that folks have patience because it’s really going to take some time,” she said.
She said they’ve already brought some families together, including one that was reunited at the airport. Each reunion makes the hard work and late nights worth it.
“Even that one family that you can put back together, it’s rewarding,” she said. “There’s nothing like it. It really is amazing.”
Leah Crowley contributed to this report.