Residents, family, and loved ones are dealing with the aftermath of what’s being considered the worst high-rise fire in Hawaii’s history.
Three people were killed, several more were injured, and dozens of residents were displaced after a five-alarm fire in the Marco Polo Apartments building in Moiliili Friday.
The blaze broke out on the 26th floor and burned more than a dozen units on three floors before crews could contain it.
The fire was extinguished by midnight, and firefighters remained on scene throughout the night to handle rekindles and flareups.
According to the American Red Cross, 110 residents were forced to stay at a makeshift shelter at Iolani School overnight.
It’s unclear just how many will be able to permanently return to their homes, and when.
The 26th, 27th and 28th floors remain closed due to various levels of fire, smoke, and water damage.
There are 17 units on each floor, meaning more than 50 tenants are displaced, and it could be weeks before residents living on those floors are allowed to return.
The damage resembles a war zone. Shards of broken glass and charred debris are all that’s left of several units.
Emmanuil and Larisa Mokan lived on the 26th floor where the fire started. Their unit was next door to the mother and son who died in the fire.
“Everything from memories, from our wedding pictures two years ago, our baby pictures, from every moment there is. Our belongings, our social security, I mean everything is probably gone by now,” Emmanuil Mokan said.
“It’s scary to believe something like that, knowing that our next door neighbors are gone. I don’t know. I’m just happy to be alive and happy that we’re okay,” Larisa Mokan said.
Residents living in the floors above where the fire started have heavy smoke damage and many who live floors below have water damage.
On Saturday, fire investigators continued work to determine a cause while restoration contractors surveyed the damage.
“About 3:30 this morning, (residents) were allowed to go back, so as of this morning, we had about 11 residents who just could not get back to their apartment,” said Coralie Matayoshi, executive director of the American Red Cross, Hawaii State Chapter.
The Red Cross says this is one of the biggest emergency situations it has responded to, and there’s been an outpouring of support from the community.
“I saw it on the news and wanted to come and help,” said one woman who stopped by the shelter to drop off money.
Others donated supplies.
“Just a bunch of food, toothpaste, soap, snacks, you know, the essentials. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims. It’s just, you know it’s heartbreaking,” said Jessica Miriga with BELFOR Hawaii, an emergency response, cleanup, and restoration company.
The shelter will be open again Saturday night at Iolani School and on Sunday, case workers will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assess the needs of those displaced by the fire.
The Salvation Army Family Services Office on Oahu also offered aid to residents with rental assistance, food, clothing and comfort. Residents or their families may call The Salvation Army Family Services Office at (808) 800-4330.
Officials say the majority of the building’s occupants will be allowed to reenter their units for the remainder of the building, and are advised to contact the building’s management by calling the front desk for further details.