Hawaii’s Office of Consumer Protection has instituted a price freeze for all commodities on the island of Maui, the scene of devastating fires that have killed at least 55 people. Officials say the death toll is expected to rise. At least 1,000 people remain missing.
The price freeze is scheduled to be in effect at least until the end of the month, the OCP said in a statement, “unless terminated or superseded by separate emergency proclamation.”
The freeze means that commodities have to be sold at pre-emergency prices. Items affected under the freeze include food, water, ice, gasoline, cooking fuel, batteries, generators, medical supplies, and construction materials, according to the OCP.
Officials say it will take years and billions of dollars for the Hawaiian island to recover from the fiery devastation on the western side of the island. Maui’s historic resort town of Lahaina has been largely reduced to ashes. Governor Josh Green said, after a firsthand look at the town, that Lahaina is “tragically gone.” He said, “When you see the full extent of the destruction in Lahaina, it will shock you. It does appear like a bomb and fire went off.”
Green also called on hotel owners and homeowners to take in some of the island’s residents who have lost everything in the fire.
Tiffany Kidder Winn, a business owner in Lahaina, told The Associated Press that Lahaina “looked like a war zone, just total destruction.”
Talk show maven Oprah Winfrey, a Maui resident, visited an evacuation center on the island’s north side Thursday where she handed out pillows, shampoo, diapers and sheets. Winfrey said she had visited the site earlier to ask evacuees what they needed.
Emergency workers in Lahaina are still trying to locate and identify people who died in the blaze, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said Thursday. He implored people whose homes were not damaged to not come home until “We have recovered those who have perished.”
Officials say they expect the fires on Maui will become Hawaii’s deadliest natural disaster since a 1961 tsunami killed 61 people on the Big Island.
Some information in this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.