West Maui’s economic recovery will take years and cost billions of dollars, federal, state and county officials said during a news conference on Thursday, after touring the site of a wildfire that destroyed the town of Lahaina. The overall damage assessment of Lahaina was chillingly simple.

“It’s all gone,” Mayor Richard Bissen said. He later added: “Everything there is destroyed.”

Gov. Josh Green’s description: “It does appear like a bomb and fire went off.”

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said the cost to rebuild Lahaina will be “in the billions.” (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

The cost to rebuild, he said, will be enormous.

“It will take time to know the full extent,” Green said. “But it will be in the billions of dollars without a doubt.”

The federal government and private organizations already were releasing relief funds for individuals and small businesses thanks in part to an emergency declaration issued by President Biden on Thursday, said Sherry Menor-McNamara, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii’s president and chief executive.

That included Small Business Administration funds as well as a Business Relief Fund set up by the chamber, she said.

The historic former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii and 19th century whaling village was once a major center of West Maui’s tourism economy. The nearby resorts of Kaanapali and Kapalua lost power but were relatively unscathed by the firestorm that destroyed Lahaina.

Still, Menor-McNamara said, the loss of Lahaina will create a ripple effect through the Maui economy, hurting vendors that supported a seaside tourist town that officials say is completely gone.

“It’s this domino effect,” said Menor-McNamara.

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