(ABOVE PHOTO) Photo courtesy Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who went house-to-house with FEMA on August 15 to asses the damage in communities hit by Hurricane Iselle. Gabbard urged federal, state, and county agencies to expedite the relief efforts.
PUNA, Hawaii – Hawaii’s request for a major disaster declaration due to Tropical Storm Iselle was denied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency today.
FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate informed state officials that the magnitude of Iselle’s impact does not meet presidential disaster declaration criteria, and is “not beyond the capabilities of the state,
affected local governments, and voluntary agencies.”
The state’s request sought Individual Assistance for individuals and households affected by the storm in early August and Hazard Mitigation funds for use in statewide projects. There is still hope for assistance with public infrastructure, however. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency – formerly known as State Civil Defense – says it continues to work with federal and county officials on an application for assistance to rebuild public infrastructure.
Hawaii County Civil Defense head Darryl Oliveira said something similar Monday night in Pahoa during a meeting on an approaching lava flow. At that point in time it was not officially known that FEMA would deny the application for Individual Assistance.
UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Billy Kenoi issued a statement:
We are very disappointed in FEMA’s decision to deny the state’s request for individual assistance for the victims of Tropical Storm Iselle. Our residents and families suffered destroyed homes, property losses and many other impacts from this historic storm. For many people, their lives have still not returned to normal, and the federal government must help our communities. We strongly urge Governor Abercrombie to appeal the FEMA decision directly to President Obama. We hope the president will recognize that the residents of Puna need his help, and deserve all the support and assistance that we can give them.”Mayor Billy Kenoi statement
Many homes in Puna were damaged by the storm, which blasted East Hawaii for hours as an offshore hurricane before finally making landfall as a tropical storm. Fallen albizia trees were the primary problem, although several homes in Kapoho were lost to storm surge.