How to help the victims of the Maui wildfires

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On Aug. 8, a series of small brush fires started in Maui. They quickly spread due to dry weather and high winds from Hurricane Dora, which passed Hawaii a few hundred miles to the south.

The fires have since been mostly contained, but residents are still dealing with the destruction left in their wake. The death toll in Maui climbed to 96 as of Monday, making it the worst U.S. wildfire in over a century.

With search and rescue operations still ongoing, the death toll is expected to rise, Hawaii Governor Josh Green said in a video statement released Sunday.

Hundreds of people appear to be missing, and thousands more have been displaced. Gov. Green estimates there are nearly $6 billion in damages, with over 2,700 buildings destroyed in the coastal town of Lahaina, which was hit hardest by the blaze.

How you can help

The most effective way to help victims is through cash donations, as that's the quickest way to get assistance to those in need. It immediately grants on-the-ground charities flexibility to purchase the supplies they need.

However, it's important to make sure you donate to reputable organizations. To avoid scammers who create fake charities during natural disasters, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency recommends donating to trusted, well-known charities. It currently recommends the Maui Strong Fund and American Red Cross of Hawaii.

Any charity that solicits a donation for disaster relief in Hawaii must be registered with the Department of the Attorney General, which provides a look-up tool on its website. Charity Navigator also has a search function that can help you verify whether a charity is legit.

To get you started, here are a few trustworthy organizations providing disaster relief in Maui:

  • The Maui Strong Fund, run by the Hawai'i Community Foundation, is accepting donations for necessities like food, clothing and shelter for families who have lost their homes.
  • The American Red Cross of Hawaii has 220 trained responders on the ground in Maui helping with search and rescue operations. Donations to the Red Cross are also providing shelter, food and emotional support. You can also donate to the Red Cross by calling 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669).
  • Aloha United Way, a non-profit organization based in Honolulu, has set up a dedicated fund for victims of the Maui wildfire.
  • The Maui Food Bank is accepting donations that will pay for meals provided to displaced residents in Maui.
  • The Maui Humane Society is seeking contributions to fund care for pets displaced by the wildfire.

If you were affected by the fire, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency provides information on where you can find financial assistance, food or shelter.

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