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Gov. signs relief request: Abercrombie’s office seeks individual assistance for Hawaii County for residents affected by Iselle

Updated: 
August 22, 2014 - 12:05am

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a request seeking a Presidential Disaster Declaration for federal assistance in recovery efforts following Tropical Storm Iselle.

State officials said earlier this week that such a request might not come until next week, once Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives had assessed damage to public infrastructure, such as roadways and bridges.

But in a phone interview late Thursday afternoon, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Public Information Officer Shelley Kunishige explained that the governor’s office expedited a request for FEMA assistance through a program aimed at helping homeowners on private property.

“The governor’s office felt that due to the economic situation and the remoteness of the location, it forced them to act,” she said.

The request seeks individual assistance for Hawaii County, making additional funding, loans and services available to residents affected by high winds, rain, fallen trees and storm surge.

Mayor Billy Kenoi said Thursday afternoon that he was glad to see the governor’s office forego waiting for a public infrastructure damage assessment.

“Initially it was my understanding that they would wait to send the request for individual assistance, that they were going to make it one application,” he said. “But the quicker we can request consideration, the better for our island.”

On Wednesday, state emergency management personnel reported that a total of 260 Hawaii Island residents reported sustaining damage to their homes during a series of help sessions at Disaster Assistance Recovery Centers in Pahoa and Mountain View. Meanwhile, a total of 643 reported experiencing impacts from the storm, including power outages, debris, food spoilage and more.

FEMA representatives, accompanied by emergency personnel from the state and county, completed a preliminary damage assessment of isle homesteads earlier this week. However, the data collected in that assessment has not yet been released.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.