A camera crew that was accompanying Oprah Winfrey as she visited Maui wildfire survivors inside a Hawaii shelter Sunday was turned away at the door due to a no-media policy inside, officials said.
The famous television host and media mogul helped raise the spirits of Maui residents at the War Memorial Complex without the cameras capturing the moment due to the ongoing policy by county officials.
Winfrey, who lives on the Hawaiian island part-time, has made multiple trips to comfort those impacted by the raging fires that have killed nearly 100 people and destroyed or damaged over 2,000 structures.
“Oprah was able to visit our shelter and we thank her for instructing media journalists and camera crews to remain outside,” the County of Maui wrote on Facebook. “We welcome Oprah to continue to uplift our community’s spirit and give her aloha to victims of the tragic disaster.
“Her visit inside of the shelter today was truly heartwarming and we appreciate her understanding of our policy of having no camera crews or reporters accompanying dignitaries and celebrities in our emergency shelters.”
The statement from county officials came after the local Star Advertiser News initially reported that Winfrey, 69, and a CBS crew following her were denied entry because media are not allowed to enter the shelter.
Just days ago, Winfrey spoke on camera to the BCC inside the shelter about giving residents a helping hand.
“It’s a little overwhelming, you know,” Winfrey told the outlet on video late last week. “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.”
It’s unclear how the BBC was able to interview her inside the shelter while the CBS crew was barred from the facility Sunday.
Winfrey, who has been living on the island part-time for 15 years and owns 2,000 acres of land (3.1 square miles), said she asked residents what they needed before coming back with items like pillows, shampoo, diapers and sheets from stores like Walmart and Costco.
She has visited the emergency shelter three times already, according to Hawaii News Now.
“I brought personal hygiene products and the other day it was towels and sheets and pillows and the day before that it was water,” she told the local news outlet, speaking outside the shelter.
Winfrey promised to help those displaced and devastated by the historic fire for as long as needed.
“In a week or two, all the cameras will be gone and the rest of the world is going to move on with their lives and we’re all still going to be here trying to figure out what is the best way to rebuild,” she told the outlet. “I will be here for the long haul, doing what I can.”
The wildfires have devastated Maui, killing at least 96 people, which makes it the deadliest wildfire in the US in more than 100 years. Only two fatal victims have been identified so far as officials described some of the recovered remains as so badly damaged, “they fall apart.”
Hundreds more remain unaccounted for.
Thousands of people have lost their homes and possessions as the fast-moving flames engulfed parts of the island last week, including the resort city of Lahaina, which was decimated.
The cause of the massive blaze is unknown, though lawyers investigating the fire reportedly believe it was caused by damaged power lines.