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All of West Maui except for burned-out sections of historic Lahaina reopened to tourism on Nov. 1 following the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century, the mayor of Maui County said. Mayor Richard Bissen said he made the move after talking about it with his Lahaina advisory team, the Red Cross and other partners.
West Maui has about 11,000 hotel rooms, or about half of Maui’s total. Travelers evacuated those hotels after the Aug. 8 fire raged through Lahaina town, killing at least 99 people and destroying more than 2,000 buildings.
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green last September declared West Maui would officially reopen to tourism on Oct. 8 to bring back badly needed jobs and help the economy recover. Bissen modified the governor’s declaration with a phased plan, allowing a small section on the northern edge of West Maui to open first with the rest to follow at an undetermined date.
The community has had an impassioned debate about when to welcome travelers back to the disaster-stricken region. Some residents drafted a petition opposing the return of tourists, saying the community wasn’t ready. Bissen said that workers are ready to return to their jobs while acknowledging “this isn’t for everyone.”
Those who aren’t prepared to go back to work on Nov. 1 should talk to their employers and “continue to seek the help and attention that they need,” Bissen said at a news conference in Lahaina that was livestreamed online.
The mayor said many residents are also concerned about not having childcare. He said the county’s partners are working on that issue. Residents who have been staying in West Maui hotels and other short-term accommodations after losing their homes in the fire won’t lose their lodging, the mayor said.
“We’re assured by the Red Cross that their housing will not be in jeopardy,” Bissen said.
The mayor said the reopening schedule was voluntary and said some properties have already reopened on their own.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.