Aid continues for Big Island storm victims, FEMA still assessing

More than a week after Tropical Storm Iselle hit the Big Island, some residents are still waiting for their power to be restored and for federal aid to come in.

But they are receiving help in other ways.

With thousands on the Big Island still trying to get their lives back on track, workers and volunteers are working daily to restore some normalcy.

To help residents, Hawaiian Telcom is offering free phone and Wi-Fi service at three different community centers in the area: Hawaiian Shores Community Center (phones, Wi-Fi), Pahoa Community Center (Wi-Fi only), and Nanawale Community Center (phones only).

The Hawaii Red Cross closed its shelter Monday at the Pahoa Community Center, but case workers remain on the island, aiding with specific items.

hawaiian telcom wifi phones

“So we’re doing it with casework and damaged assessment and we’re getting them things like solar lights, little bit longer term and single-burner stoves, and we’re working with them on health needs as well,” said Coralie Chun Matayoshi with the Hawaii Red Cross.

While the Red Cross is assisting with other basics, including food and shelter, legal experts are also lending a hand.

“We can’t jump on a plane and take things to them, so we’re doing what we think we can do, which is offer advice,” said Calvin Young, president of the Hawaii State Bar Association.

Thirty-six attorneys in Honolulu are volunteering their time. Those looking for free advice about recovery efforts can call 1-888-609-5463 on Tuesday and Wednesday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“What we’re trying to do is answer basic questions, basic legal rights, claims. People are trying to find out where they can file a claim, who they can contact. We have all of the phone numbers at our fingertips,” Young said.

free legal hotline

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard looked at the damage on Friday with FEMA officials, who are making an assessment.

“They’ve pretty much wrapped it up and are giving their assessment to the governor so he can request a presidential disaster declaration, which is what we need in order to get this FEMA aid out to our residents in Puna,” she said.

FEMA officials could spend another two to three days assessing the damage.

Congresswoman Gabbard says the governor will request federal aid from President Obama when he has all the information he needs.

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