Lauren Sánchez and her husband-to-be Jeff Bezos have pledged $100 million to Maui in the wake of devastating wildfires that have decimated the Hawaiian island.
The Emmy-award-winning journalist and helicopter pilot took to her personal Instagram on Friday where she shared that the couple is “heartbroken by what’s happening in Maui” with her 331,000 followers.
“We are thinking of all the families that have lost so much and a community that has been left devastated. 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.”
Sánchez, 53, added, “Jeff and I are creating a Maui Fund and are dedicating $100 million to help Maui get back on its feet now and over the coming year as the continuing needs reveal themselves.”
In addition to the post’s 11,000-plus likes, singer Katy Perry showed her support, commenting, “this is it ♥️🙏🏻.” Mindy Kaling also wrote, “Wow. truly incredible ❤️.”
Devastating wildfires have obliterated Hawaii’s second-largest island Maui, causing thousands of residents and visitors to evacuate — with some even jumping into the harbor off the coastline in order to escape, according to Hawaii News Now. The current death toll is 80 and is expected to rise.
The fires have been fueled by low humidity and strong winds. Per the National Weather Service, Hurricane Dora, a category 4 storm about 500 miles south of Hawaii, contributed to the damaging winds over Maui.
Sánchez and 59-year-old Bezos are part-time residents of Maui, having purchased a 14-acre estate surrounded by thousands of acres of dormant lava fields. According to Architectural Digest, Bezos purchased the property, which sits on La Perouse Bay on the south shore of Maui and is reportedly worth an estimated $78 million, in 2021.
Another part-time resident of Maui has also pitched in to help locals with much-needed supplies as fires continue to rage and search and rescue crews attempt to locate missing people.
On Thursday, former talk show host Oprah Winfrey was filmed handing out supplies at the War Memorial Stadium in Maui, which has been turned into an evacuation center.
“It’s a little overwhelming, you know,” Winfrey, 69, told the BBC at the stadium. “But I’m really so pleased to have so many people, you know, supporting, and people are just bringing what they can and doing what they can.”
“Oprah went to a local shelter to ask first-hand what was most needed,” a spokesperson for Oprah later told PEOPLE. “She then went to Walmart and Costco to shop for the items and brought them back. It is heart-breaking devastation. She will do more, as it becomes clear which funds can be the most helpful for the short-term and long-term rebuilding.”
Jason Momoa, a Honolulu native, spoke out about the wildfires on Instagram, sharing a post from the nonprofit organization Āina Momona with more information on how to help.
“Āina Momona is standing up this fundraiser to support our Maui community,” he shared with a link to the fund that will help “support disaster relief on Maui.”
“We are using this ActBlue platform because giving is quick and easy, and the funds come to us immediately, allowing us to get these funds to families in need faster,” the post continued before signing off with, “Mahalo for your support.”
Momoa, 44, also urged people to stay safe in a statement shared with PEOPLE.
“My heart goes out to all those affected by the devastating fires across the Island of Maui. In times like these, we come together as an ‘Ohana, a family, to kāko’o and kōkua one another,” he said in the statement. “The destruction caused by these fires is heartbreaking, but our community’s resilience and strength will shine through.”
The statement continued, “I urge everyone to stay safe and heed the advice of local authorities. Let us all do our part to prevent the further spread of the fires and support those on the front lines, working tirelessly to protect our homes and natural treasures.”
During a news conference on Thursday, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green described how the tragedy was especially difficult to anticipate because it “came in the night with high winds,” adding that the state is short on firefighting resources and personnel.
According to CBS News, there are at most 65 firefighters working in Maui County at any given time, who are responsible for fighting fires on three islands.
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