LAHAINA, Hawaii (KHON) — As the search, recovery, and assistance efforts on Maui continue, former President Barack Obama is urging Americans to help take care of the communities devastated by fires last week.
“Aloha everybody,” President Obama said in a message shared with Nexstar’s KHON. “Like so many people around the world, Michelle and I have been absolutely heartbroken by the devastating images coming out of Maui and Lahaina over the last week. As someone who grew up in Hawaii, someone who has taken my family to enjoy the incredible beauty of that island and the hospitality of the people of Lahaina, we now find ourselves mourning the lives that are lost. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families that have lost so much.”
The death toll stood at 96 Monday and was expected to grow as cadaver dogs and search crews continue to sift through the rubble.
“The thing about it is though, thoughts and prayers in a moment like this are not enough,” Obama continued. “We have to step up. And we have to help those families, and we have to help Lahaina rebuild. And the good news is that the Hawaii Red Cross and Malama Maui are mobilizing to provide direct support to people who are desperately in need. I’m asking you to do everything you can to generously support the Malama Maui effort.”
In Hawaiian, the word malama means to take care of or to protect.
The Red Cross fundraising effort was still active on Monday afternoon. The estimated cost of the damage of the Maui fires topped $5.6 billion, according to Gov. Josh Green.
“If all of us – the Ohana – pull together and do as much as we can to give back to an island and a town and people who have given us so much, I’m absolutely confident that Lahaina and Maui and those families are going to be able to rebuild. But we’ve got to be a part of that. So please, provide generous support to the Hawaii Red Cross and to Malama Maui right now,” the president said.
He signed off his message by saying, “Mahalo nui loa,” which means “Thank you very much.”
The Red Cross said 575 evacuees were spread across five shelters on Monday, including the War Memorial Gymnasium in Wailuku. Among the visitors was Oprah Winfrey, who told Hawaii News Now that she has delivered personal hygiene products, towels, and water in recent days.
Winfrey, a part-time Maui resident, warned that news crews will eventually depart from the destruction, and the world will move on. But she said that “We’re all still going to be here trying to figure out what is the best way to rebuild … I will be here for the long haul, doing what I can.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.