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Pastor, former legislator organizing help for Maui wildfire victims, locals file class-action lawsuit against electric utility

RAPID CITY, S.D. – A Rapid City pastor and former South Dakota politician is organizing a team of people to help meet the growing needs of the population of Maui, Hawaii following a devastating wildfire.

The official death toll has reached 96 in the wildfires on Maui, and there are warnings it could rise further. The blaze that devastated the historic town of Lahaina is now the deadliest US wildfire in over 100 years, officials said.

Pastor Scott Craig was a Republican member of the South Dakota House of Representatives representing District 33 from January 11, 2013 to 2017.  Now the pastor at Landmark Community Church in Rapid City, he previously served as pastor at a church in Lahaina for 11 years. He told KELO News it was difficult to watch the place where his kids grew up burn to the ground, but also emotional to know the people he still knew and loved in Hawaii were dealing with the devastation.

“They’ve lost their churches, they’ve lost their homes and we know personally a high number of people who’ve lost everything. They escaped literally with the clothes on their back.”

Pastor Scott Craig

Craig and a friend from his former church in Hawaii have created Team Ikaika Maui (Team Maui Strong). According to Craig, there are additional team members including a former assistant pastor of the church in Lahaina along with, “people with means and connections” who are part of the effort.

The plan is to set up an emergency clinic north of the affected area in Kahana. Nurses from Rapid City and California will staff the unit. Craig said it’s especially needed since the only hospital in the area, Maui Memorial Hospital, is over-whelmed with burn victims. In addition, there is an effort underway to create a mobile kitchen to help feel displaced individuals and families.

Donations of clothing, first aid and personal items are being collected now and will be shipped immediately to the location.

To donate, go on line to Landmark Community Church.

Meanwhile, Hawaiian Electric’s stock fell to a 13-year low Monday morning, plummeting nearly 40% after a class-action lawsuit filed over the weekend alleged that Maui’s devastating wildfires were caused by the utility’s energized power lines that were knocked down by strong winds.

The utility says it provides power to 95% of the state’s residents.

The suit alleges that Hawaiian Electric Industries “chose not to deenergize their power lines during the High Wind Watch and Red Flag Warning conditions for Maui before the Lahaina Fire started,” despite knowing the risks of sparking a fire in those conditions.

The company and subsidiaries “also chose not to deenergize their power lines after they knew some poles and lines had fallen and were in contact with the vegetation or the ground,” the suit alleges.

It has not yet been determined what started the wildfire.

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3:19 pm, July 19, 2024
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