Hawaii Wildfires Aftermath Brings Looters and Speculators

  • More than 100 people have died in Maui.
  • Speculation increases about what caused the Maui fires, electrical lines are being blamed.
  • Looters are becoming an issue in the aftermath of the fire.
  • The governor fights to keep burned land in the hands of locals.

(NewsReady.com) – Fires ripped through Maui, Hawaii, recently. The devastation was incredible. The blaze is one of the most deadly to occur in the United States, and the death toll continues to increase daily. While first responders search for victims, criminals and others who want to take advantage of the situation are targeting the island.

Taking Advantage

Residents in West Maui, where Lāhainā is located, told the local news that they are being robbed for supplies like food and clothing. Business owners have reported looters breaking into stores to try to find scarce resources.

Coconut Caboose owner Jeremy Aganos, one of the few businesses to survive the blazes, said it’s been “utter chaos” for everyone who needs to find shelter, food, and water. The business owner said that his food truck is one of the ones targeted by looters.

Barrett Procell, a resident who lost his home, said he and his wife are homeless now. He told reporters that he wanted people to know that the looters are currently in survival mode and aren’t the enemies. “When your children are here starving after almost burning to death […] you may turn to desperate measures.”

It’s not just looters who are presenting a problem for residents. Maui residents are speaking out about aggressive real estate agents approaching them about purchasing their land. Tiare Lawrence, one of the Hawaii natives helping families, said that multiple people have told her that investors and realtors are contacting them to try to buy their land out from under them in these desperate times.

Governor Josh Green (D) raised the issue during an August 14 press conference, saying he asked his attorney general to consider drafting a “moratorium on any sales of properties that have been damaged or destroyed.” Further, he noted rebuilding wouldn’t happen for quite a while, so they are “pretty poorly informed if [they] try to steal land from [Hawaii’s] people and then build” on the island.

Disaster Investors

In 2022, after Hurricane Ian devastated Florida, the residents faced similar issues with predatory real estate investors. Just weeks after the storm hit, wealthy investors began looking for land to purchase. Prior to the hurricane, prices had soared along the Gulf Coast.

Rick Lema, a Rhode Island resident who owned a mobile home in Englewood, told The Wall Street Journal that he was looking for investment opportunities before the storm, but prices were too high. After the storm, he said people who owned damaged property would likely want to sell it for less than it was previously worth just to get out from under it.

After Hurricane Katrina, residents in the areas impacted by the storm, saw the same issues. Property investors poured into the region and tried to snatch up land that they could flip for a profit.

Green is hoping to prevent a similar fate for Maui residents.

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