(BIVN) – Like many residents of Leilani Estates, Geoffrey Last received a letter from Hawaii County Civil Defense declaring his home to be uninhabitable due to the volcanic eruption on Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone. But the letter did not help Last in his quest to receive help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I have not lost my home,” Last told the Hawaii County Council during a Human Services and Social Services Committee meeting in Hilo on Tuesday. “We’re in a voluntary evacuation area. My wife is 76 years old. I’m 70. She has a heart condition. She can’t live there. It’s impossible for her to live there. It would kill her to live there. But because we’re in a voluntary evacuation zone, FEMA has rejected any assistance to us, because my house is still standing.”
“I can’t live in it, don’t want to live in it right now,” Last said, holding the county letter that declared his home uninhabitable. “This letter … there should be a little clause in there that says people with certain disabilities. And they didn’t bother to put that in there, so we’re all screwed. And I’m not alone. I’m not talking just for myself. I’m talking for a bunch of people. So I want you to be very aware of this, so that you can put some pressure on these folks [at civil defense] and tell them to change this letter.”
“It’s just so many different factors pulling at each other,” said Roy Takemoto, executive assistant to Mayor Harry kim, after councilmembers asked him about the “uninhabitable” letters. “These letters were prompted by households saying they need a letter stating it’s uninhabitable in order for them, for the insurance companies, to recognize a claim for temporary relocation.”
“But we knew that when you say that this area now is uninhabitable,” Takemoto continued, “what does it mean for those who wanna stay? So, now the ones who wanna stay are getting affected by these letters, stating it’s uninhabitable.”
Takemoto says there will be a meeting tomorrow between the county, FEMA, and the Small Business Administration in order “to figure this all out.”
“FEMA had told us that they don’t need letters,” Takemoto said, adding that in cases where residents have medical issues, FEMA said “maybe they should get doctor’s notes.”
“All these kind of protocols, hopefully, tomorrow’s meeting will resolve,” Takemoto told the council.