Federal Emergency Management Agency – the agency charged with providing federal assistance when American communities are devastated by natural disasters – hasn’t yet come to the aid of several thousand residents on the island of Hawaii who lost their electricity, water, and access to basic necessities including medical aid, Aug. 7., when Hurricane Iselle hit the Big Island bringing high winds and flooding.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI, sent a formal letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on Aug. 13, requesting immediate assistance to support Hawaii Island communities devastated by Hurricane Iselle.
Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi and the Hawaii County government continue to extend its resources, Gov. Neil Abercrombie activated the Hawaii Civil Defense including the Hawaii National Guard to clear roads, distribute supplies, contribute to command and control, and augment security and safety personnel, but much more needs to be done, Gabbard said.
On Friday, Aug. 15, Gabbard will accompany FEMA’s assessment task force as they review damage on Hawaii Island, after which Gabbard told the FEMA director she hopes FEMA will take immediate action.
“I strongly urge you to support our efforts to deliver help as quickly as possible. The isolated communities have experienced hundreds of fallen trees affecting access to power, and rendering many roads completely impassable. Additionally, many of our senior citizens and residents with medical needs are cut-off from health professionals and medicine. I ask you to be rapid in your response to our natural disaster in Hawaii. We need your help to reduce suffering and restore basic necessities to citizens across this devastated area.”
Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, confirmed thousands of people on the island are still without power and water and are trying, with limited resources, to dig their way out of the storm.
As one group of government officials work to help rescue the people of Puna from the effects of Iselle, another government agency is trying to get them to vote.
The Office of Elections is holding a special election Friday in Puna for two districts impacted by the storm.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-HI, whose race will be impacted by the special election, had asked a Hilo judge this week to delay the special election so that residents still impacted by the storm would have time to learn about the election and then be able to get to the polls to vote, but the judge refused to issue a restraining order.
Ruderman also had asked the Office of Elections to delay the special election.
He said it is ridiculous to try to get people to vote when many of them don’t even know there is an election because they don’t have access to television, mail, email or newspapers. In addition, many residents still can’t leave their home because of fallen trees.
An Office of Elections spokesperson said the chief elections officer made the decision to hold the election in consultation with civil defense and the attorney general.
The results of the election will be released Friday night and with them the winner of the U.S. Senate Democratic primary, a state House race and a Hawaii County Council race.