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Hoosiers helping those affected by Maui wildfires

(Provided Photo/Emerson Timmins)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Former Hawaiian islanders living in Indiana are feeling the pain of the devastation from thousands of miles away.

By Friday evening, at least 67 deaths were reported, primarily among people trying to escape wildfires on Tuesday night. Gov. Josh Green says it’s the largest natural disaster in Hawaii’s history.

“It’s such a tragedy what’s going on in Maui and especially for us islanders who are far away,” Noel Sawada, Indianapolis resident, said Friday.

Sawada moved from Hilo, Hawaii, to the Midwest years ago.

He says he hasn’t been able to get in touch with a friend due to the widespread power outages.

“Uncle Benny, I just hope that you can hear this, but our thoughts and prayers go out to you. I hope that you and your Ohana are doing well. I want to make sure that you’re safe along with your family,” Sawada said.

He says the wildfire has torched through Lahaina’s historic downtown, a place he considers very special.

“I know that tourists were also caught up, but for the local people who live there, it’s really heartbreaking to see what’s going on,” Sawada said.

Tom Rosenow, a business owner, said, “The banyan tree at the courthouse. How marvelous that tree is and how long it’s been there, and then to watch it be charred. The question is will it grow? Will it stay alive? I don’t know. I hope it does.”

The A2Z Cafe on the city’s northeast side pays homage to the state with its Hawaiian food and colorful displays.

The family business is encouraging people to show support for the islanders.

“Don’t fall for the scammers on the internet and everything else. Give to the Red Cross, give to the Hawaiian Community Fund. Give, give, give. Try to help these people as best you can. Everything there pretty much has to be shipped in,” Rosenow said.

Sawada said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to them, and we just really are reaching out to people to show an outpouring of support in any way that you can financially, prayers, [and] best wishes.”

Overall, these community members say they are hopeful Maui will recover from this fire thanks to the island’s sense of family and community.