Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos and fiancee Lauren Sanchez said they will give $100 million toward restoration efforts on Maui after deadly wildfires devastated the island.
Sanchez said in an Instagram post they are “heartbroken” by the recent events in Maui and are creating a fund to “help Maui get back on its feet now and over the coming years.” Bezos, who has a net worth of $163 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, owns an estate on La Perouse Bay at the southern tip of the island.
“The immediate needs are important, and so is the longer term rebuilding that will have to happen — even after much of the attention has subsided,” said Sanchez, a helicopter pilot and founder of Black Ops Aviation.
Meanwhile, Hawaii-born and raised entrepreneur and philanthropist Steve Case said he would contribute $1 million to support communities affected by the wildfires.
His donation is being made by the Grove Farm Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Case’s Kaua’i-based Grove Farm. In addition, Maui Land & Pineapple, where Case is the majority investor, has announced a series of steps, to provide on-island support, as well as a long-term commitment to assist in Maui’s rebuilding efforts.
“The destruction and loss on Maui is devastating to watch, and the impact on communities such as Lahaina is tragic,” said Case. “This iconic, historic town represents the best of the culture, natural beauty and warm Aloha spirit that has come to define Hawaii. My heart and prayers go out to all of those impacted across Maui by these horrific events.”
The $1 million donation will be directed to the Hawaii Community Foundation, which launched a Maui Strong effort to mobilize support for the relief and rebuilding efforts; World Central Kitchen, which is already on the ground on Maui providing food to frontline workers and people who have lost their homes; and the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, both of which are working around the clock to provide shelter, food, and emotional support.
The rapidly spreading fires in the historic town of Lahaina on Maui have killed at least 59 people, a number that officials say is expected to rise as roughly 1,000 more remain unaccounted for and crews continue to search through the damage. Accuweather Inc. said its early estimates of the economic toll range between $8 billion and $10 billion.
President Joe Biden declared a major disaster on the island, which allows federal funds to be used to assist recovery efforts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is looking at short-term housing for Lahaina, according to Anne Bink, associate administrator of response and recovery, and the agency’s search effort remains underway.