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Woman living on Maui forced to flee fires to Oregon


By Chandler Watkins

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    PORTLAND Oregon (KPTV) — Cathy Steele used to live in Oregon, but has lived in Upcountry Maui for the last few years.

Her partner told her to leave the island before the fires got catastrophic, but he stayed behind to help others evacuate.

“The stories he has been telling me are horrific,” Steele said. “He says one of his friends was just covered in ash because he kept going back trying to help because nobody was coming. There was no help. They were going back and forth getting people out. When he was on the phone with me an hour ago he said one of our friends just saw another body in the ocean. There are still bodies there they are trying to get out.”

One of the most difficult things for many on the island is communicating with friends and family not on Maui according to Steele.

“There’s not communication in Lahaina especially,” said Steele. “They can’t use their cell phones. There’s no power so people are having trouble getting out the word that they are ok. One person at a shop had a drone that he sent up to make sure he could tell his family he was ok.”

She says it’s been heartbreaking seeing the devastation on the island.

“I’ve been overwhelmed,” Steele explained. “I don’t know how to put it into words. I feel guilt too, that I’m not there. Looking at photos has been challenging. I’ve stopped looking at them because it’s no more. There’s nothing there. I worry more about the homeless people in Lahaina. There were many homeless in our grasslands. Some may think ‘oh they are just houseless or whatever’ but those were people. Those were my people. Those were the people I connected with and they had no way out. That’s where I think I get the guilt feeling because I am not there to help. But I will be. I am going back on the 16th to do what I can.”

As she prepares to go back in the coming days, she is calling on hotels and those with vacation homes on the island to allow those who have evacuated and lost everything to stay.

“I’m not shy knocking on doors seeing if they can get a family there,” said Steele. “I’ll go to every house I can to ask if they can share their home. Insurance will pay you. If I have to, I’ll do the research for them. I guess that’s the best thing I can do right now. Then we’ll do the cleanup. When we had the big flood, you just had to get in there. I’m going to see what I can do. I am going to bring tents and a ton of stuff when I go back. Hawaii is not just a place for vacations. People live there. Their livelihood is there and they are the people who were there way before all of us. Generations are getting affected.”

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

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