Emily St. Martin
Los Angeles Times
Jason Momoa is urging tourists not to travel to Maui amid the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the island.
The actor has been active on social media this week, spreading awareness as wildfires have torn through the Big Island and Maui, decimating the historic town of Lahaina. Now he’s pleading with tourists to stay away.
“Maui is not the place to have your vacation right now,” the Honolulu-born actor captioned a video he shared via Instagram. “Do not convince yourself that your presence is needed on an island that is suffering this deeply. Mahalo to everyone who has donated and shown aloha to the community in this time of need.”
In the montage, flames are seen ripping through the island, with a message overlaying the devastating footage: “Do not travel to Maui. If you were planning on traveling to Maui in the near future, cancel your trip. The devastation from the wildfires will have a lasting island-wide impact on Maui’s resources. Our community needs time to heal, grieve & restore. That means the less visitors on island taking up critical resources that have become extremely limited the better.”
The video continued by urging, “Do not book a hotel stay. The American Hotel & Lodging Association and Hawaii Hotel Alliance are currently working with hotels in other part[s] of Hawaii to house displaced residents. Survivors are the priority.”
More than four dozen people have died, dozens have been injured and hundreds of structures have been destroyed in the wildfires that have torn through Maui this week, forcing thousands to flee their homes and reducing much of the historic town of Lahaina to ash. Nearly 1,000 people are still missing.
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green warned the death toll, now at 55, will likely rise as search-and-rescue operations continue. The catastrophe spurred President Joe Biden to declare a major disaster in Hawaii, opening the door to federal aid and assistance. Officials said the Lahaina fire is now 80% contained, but many of the town’s historic landmarks are lost.
Several fires also broke out on the Big Island this week, though there were no reports of injuries or homes lost.
One of the Maui fires tore through the town of Lahaina with such speed that people ran into the ocean for safety and left the former capital of the Hawaiian kingdom in smoking ruins. In an interview on the “Today” show Friday morning, Maui County Mayor Richard T. Bissen Jr. said the death toll so far reflects only those who were found outside of buildings.
“What we saw was likely the largest natural disaster in Hawaii state history,” Green said in a public briefing Thursday.
(L.A. Times staff writers Alexandra E. Petri, Richard Winton, Jack Dolan, Jaweed Kaleem and Summer Lin contributed to this report.)