Missouri Red Cross disaster teams on the ground in Maui

At least 55 people have died so far because of the wildfires. But officials in Maui, Hawaii warn the number of deaths could go up.

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ST. LOUIS — The death toll continues to rise as wildfires spread across Hawaii. At least 55 people are confirmed dead and thousands more have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety. 

As of Friday afternoon, Missourians are on the ground in Maui, Hawaii helping with recovery. 

Beth Elders, executive director of the American Red Cross of Greater St. Louis, said the magnitude of the disaster is coming with a unique set of challenges, but they are helping every step of the way.

“What we do is critical to our nation’s infrastructure to make sure that we’re able to provide that immediate emergency help and assistance. To be the providers of humanitarian assistance, help, sheltering, hugs and more during crises,” she said.

Despite the distance from the destruction many, like Elders, have one thing on their mind.

“I, like many, have vacationed in that area and it’s just devastating,” she said. “Our hearts, not only mine, but our organization’s hearts just go out to everyone impacted by this horrific disaster to see the devastation and to also know at the same time that the American Red Cross is there from the beginning, helps to bring a little bit of hope to what is an absolutely devastating time.”

That word disaster is why the American Red Cross does what it does, Elders said.

“We’re the first on the scene able to work with partners, really bring hope and help in those crisis times. The American Red Cross was present initially and continues to be present, really providing emergency sheltering, food, emotional support and more to all of those impacted directly, both on Maui and Oahu,” she said.

A crisis is exactly what’s taking place in Hawaii, as flames spread across the island and the death toll rises. Elders has been with the nonprofit for six years and said the impact of this disaster is unlike any other.

“The magnitude of this wildfire, specifically its impact with the number of fatalities, the sudden impact is one of the most profound disasters that we have responded to in quite some time,” she said.

Elders said there are currently two Missourians on the ground while others are waiting to do the same.

“We have hundreds of volunteers on standby that have raised their hands to say that they are ready to go. We’re waiting for conditions to stabilize, for it to be safe for us to continue to transport and move our volunteers into that space,” she said.

According to Elders, the Red Cross has seven shelters across both Maui and Oahu, which have provided over 2,100 overnight stays not only to residents but also vacationers.

“There are a number of people who were in hotels on Maui that now are needing to fly out and are needing a place to stay while they make those connecting flights. That is something that is unique to this environment,” she said.

On top of all of that, Elders said, the nonprofit is focused on reuniting loved ones, which is a task that is far from small.

“It happened so quickly. We know that there is such a profound loss of life and so many people that are currently unaccounted for and really trying to do the best we can as a humanitarian organization to help make those connections,” she said.

While recovery is far from over, Elders said they are in it for the long run.

“That’s what the American Red Cross is about, providing that help and that hope to alleviate human suffering,” she said.

If you can’t get a hold of a loved one, then you can call 1-800-REDCROSS and press option 4. Elders said the agency is working around the clock to reunite families back together. Red Cross said the best way you can help right now is financially. You can donate here.

The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. If you are interested, then you can find more information here. 

The Salvation Army is also asking for monetary donations, as they coordinate thousands of meals at the shelters. You can donate here. 


Originally Appeared Here

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