MDS is monitoring and assessing the needs amid the tragic wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, as the death toll nears 100 people and is expected to rise. MDS reported officials anticipate search and rescue operations will continue through the week.
In an Aug. 17 announcement, MDS has been communicating with its partner organizations—including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster—about potential long-term needs on the ground in Maui.
The blaze that devastated the historic town of Lahaina is now the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over 100 years, emergency officials reported.
Maui residents continue to sift through the ashes of what used to be homes and beloved landmarks.
“Please pray for emergency responders as they continue to face an unprecedented situation in their communities,” says MDS executive director Kevin King. “As we assess needs, please be aware that, particularly in the aftermath of a wildfire, MDS may not send volunteers for another nine to 12 months, as fire cleanup and relief operations will be unfolding during that time.”
The primary way MDS responds is by sending volunteers to clean up and rebuild following disasters. However following wildfires, the destroyed homes are a total loss, and the ashes and debris are considered toxic material. This makes it difficult for volunteers to participate in the cleanup process. It can then take months or a year or more before a community is prepared to rebuild. MDS will stay in touch with community leaders to determine when their volunteers can start rebuilding.
MDS will be conducting damage assessments on the ground in Maui as soon as able and will provide updates via the website.
“Remember that prayer is one of our most important responses, and I urge you to pray for those completing the hard job of assessing the kinds of needs MDS can address,” said King. “Disasters like this strengthen our resolve to help those most in need, to carefully consider our response, and to reach out with care and compassion.”
MDS has a history of responding to disasters in Hawaii. In 1992, MDS responded with home repairs following Hurricane Inike and again in 2014 after Hurricane Iselle.
Mennonite Disaster Service is a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches dedicated to responding to natural and man-made disasters in Canada and the United States.
Their aim is to assist the most vulnerable community members, individuals and families who would not otherwise have the means to recover. MDS volunteers provide the skills and labor needed to respond, rebuild and restore in the wake of a disaster.