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Surfer Kai Lenny slams government response after devastating Maui wildfires: "Where are they?"

Surfer Kai Lenny on Maui wildfire recovery
Professional surfer Kai Lenny slams government response in Maui recovery 05:32

Kai Lenny, a professional surfer and a Maui local, has stepped up in the aftermath of devastating wildfires as frustrations mount over what many residents believe is an inadequate government response. He is leading one of many citizen-run recovery efforts on the island, saying people in the fire zone have told him they haven't seen a government employee in days.

He told CBS News that "some of us ... were kinda sitting back, waiting for help to arrive, and then nothing was sorta happening." 

"We were just in shock," he said. 

People contacted Lenny, citing a lack of help in their areas. He said he received texts and messages from friends asking if he could help, which led to his "boots on the ground" effort — bringing supplies to those in need with the goal of holding friends and family over until "the caravan arrives with everything." 

"And it was just like, day after day, 'Where are they?'" he said. 

"I haven't seen one state, one county, one federal official at any one of the donation hubs where people are most suffering," he said. "People are sleeping in their cars. People are asking for specific items now."

Lenny likened the west side of Maui to "a third-world country" and said locals there say no one has come to help them.

"The Hawaiian people, the locals that have lived here, they just always feel like they're the last to be thought of. And they're like, the foundation of it," he said. 

The confirmed death toll rose to 101 on Tuesday, and more than 1,000 people remained unaccounted for, local officials said.  

FEMA says they have more than 380 employees on the ground and more than 190 search and rescue team members deployed, while the Red Cross has 250 disaster workers.

"FEMA personnel continue to have a presence in West Maui, helping survivors register for assistance. In Lahaina, FEMA has met with community members at local relief centers and provided flyers explaining how survivors can register for assistance," the agency told CBS News. 

"At the direction of Maui County and emergency management officials, FEMA disaster assistance personnel have been working in numerous shelters with displaced survivors. The agency is working closely with Maui County emergency management to branch out to more locations to continue meeting survivors where they are," FEMA said.

CBS News has also reached out to Maui County officials and Hawaii Gov. Josh Green for comment on Lenny's concerns.

Lenny said volunteers, some of whom lost their own homes and loved ones, have worked day and night at shelters and distribution centers.

"I wonder if the state, county, they believe we're doing such a good job, they don't need to step in," he said. "But a lot of these volunteers have been going all day, all night for five, six days now and are exhausted and are waiting for a handoff, or at least a break."

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