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Hawaii members of Congress urge Biden to approve disaster declaration

The Maui News

Hawaii’s Congressional delegation is urging President Joe Biden to quickly approve Gov. David Ige’s major disaster declaration following significant storms and flooding in December.

The Kona low storm, which hit Hawaii County on Dec. 5 then slowly moved across the island chain until it cleared Kauai County on Dec. 8, caused heavy rainfall — including nearly 13 inches over Upcountry during a 24-hour period — while undermining roads, flooding neighborhoods and knocking out power for 22,000 residents on Maui. Some Kula residents have been under boil water advisories for weeks after the storm damaged and contaminated water pipes with E. coli.

“These impacts have disrupted lives and damaged property, forcing some residents to evacuate their homes,” Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz and Reps. Ed Case and Kai Kahele wrote in a joint letter to Biden on Thursday. “Recovery from this destructive storm is further complicated by the continuing impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and the contamination of drinking water at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and surrounding communities. As such, the people of Hawaii need all available assistance from the federal government to recover from the storm amid these ongoing crises.”

A declaration will help ensure that the affected communities can access important federal funding and resources to recover, a news release from the lawmakers said. The request is for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for the entire state, as well as public assistance for Maui and Honolulu counties.

“The impacts from this prolonged weather event were significant, and we urge you to declare a major disaster to speed recovery from the damages it caused,” the lawmakers wrote.

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