However, only 400 students from the area that burned have been reenrolled in other public schools. Reuters reports that about 200 students have been signed up for distance learning. The schools in Lahaina, elementary through high school, were home to more than 3,000 students, and it is unclear how many of those students have been relocated, enrolled elsewhere, or are deceased.
"For the schools that started today," Alex Fielding, CEO of Privateer, working on bringing power and wi-fi to the ravaged areas, told Fox, "I can't imagine what roll call looks like … when one in every four is likely not going to be there in those classes, in those neighborhoods. I don't know how you have enough teachers or counselors or therapists, or how you there's no way to do justice to the real tragedy on the ground."
The fires destroyed 2,200 homes, displaced nearly 5,000 and the death toll is still unknown. Only 6 of the known 114 dead has been identified. That number will continue to rise. Counseling will be offered at schools that are reopening outside of the burn zone.
"More than a thousand are unaccounted for, about 1,050," Hawaii Governor Josh Green told Face the Nation on Sunday after wildfires ripped through the island of Maui, devastating the town of Lahaina. The fires ripped through on August 8.
"It's going to take several weeks still," he said, "some of the challenges are going to be extraordinary."
Green said that 85 percent of the land that was burned was covered by search and rescue teams, including 41 cadaver dogs. The next step in the recovery process is to go into the larger buildings, Green said, "which requires peeling back some of the floors and structures." This, he said, "could take weeks."
Additional concerns are about the condition of those remains. "We do have extreme concerns that because of the temperature of the fire, the remains of those who have died, in some cases, may be impossible to recover meaningfully. So there are going to be people that are lost forever. And right now we're working obviously, with the FBI and everyone on the ground to make sure that we do what we can to assess who's missing."
Green addressed concerns that many of those who are lost are children. Schools were closed that day, and children were home alone, or many were being cared for by grandparents, while parents were at work. An entire family was found burned to death in their car.
Internally, he said, these are discussions they are having. He told Face the Nation that "it is possible that there will be many children."
"Our parents work one, two, three jobs just to get by and they can’t afford to take a day off... Without school, there was nowhere for [kids] to go that day," Maui kindergarten teacher Jessica Sill said.
Lahaina, with a population of less than 14,000 per the 2020 census, has an official death toll of about 114. Recovery teams are searching the ruins of the town in an attempt to uncover bodies and identify those lost. However, Green said that due to the extensive destruction, it would be exceedingly difficult to identify many of the remains.
Federal agents are still working to determine what caused the fire. The area was at high risk of wildfires due to Hurricane Dora, creating high winds and dry conditions. On August 8, a brush fire set off in Upcountry Maui, "prompting evacuations," Hawaii News Now reports. More than 1,000 acres were burned in Olinda and Kula.
In Lahaina, winds toppled power lines. A resident reported that they saw the power lines come down and ignite dry vegetation. Winds were between 45 and 67 miles per hour. "So far, there's been rampant speculation that power lines are to blame for sparking the fires," Hawaiian news reported.
A lawsuit has already been launched against power companies for not turning off the power in the face of high winds, and the potential for those winds to bring down power lines and cause fires. Roads were closed due to downed power lines.
A brush fire near Lahaina was reportedly contained, but "an apparent flareup" caused more closures and evacuations of those near the Lahaina Bypass. This appears to be when the Lahaina fire began in earnest as flames began to tear through the area.
The fire burned out of control, with cars stopped on roads. Sirens were not sounded due to an official decision to not sound them. The reason behind this was that the official said the sirens are used for tsunamis, and he feared that people would run into the hills, as they would for tsunamis, and that would lead them into the fire.
In speaking to Face the Nation, Green reiterated this, saying that the sirens, which also were not fully functional, are used for tsunamis. "Do I wish those sirens went off? Of course I do," he said. "And I think that the answer that the emergency administrator for Maui, who's resigned, was, of course utterly unsatisfactory to the world. But it is the case that that we've historically not used those kinds of warnings for fires."
A water official also delayed releasing more water to help firefighters battle the blaze, waiting five hours to approve a request to divert more water. He felt it necessary to consult with a local farmer on the impact of water diversion prior to releasing it. M. Kaleo Manuel resigned from his position as the deputy director of the Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management, and was transferred to a different position in government.
This left the people of Lahaina unaware of the imminent disaster that was threatening their lives and homes. Some hundred people jumped into the ocean to save themselves from the rapidly encroaching flames. The Coast Guard deployed boats to help fight the fires, and to rescue people from the Pacific Ocean.
Lahaina was leveled by the flames.
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