Lahaina, the historic town of west Maui, the second largest island in Hawaii, was hit by a wildfire on August 8 and was subsequently completely burned down. So far, over a hundred people have died, with 850 still unaccounted for. On Sunday, Hawaii Governor Josh Green, during the news program Face The Nation broadcast on CBS News, stated that among the ones missing, the majority were children who were at home on that fateful day.
Explaining why the kids of Lahaina were at home on a school day, the Hawaii State Department of Education said that on August 8, Lahaina’s largest school Lahainaluna High School was closed early because of a power outage caused by strong winds from the incoming Category 4 Hurricane Dora. So, even if the kids went to school, they were sent back home early, while their parents were still at work.
Not only that, but other local intermediate and elementary schools were supposed to reopen after the summer break the following day. This was another reason why more kids were at their residences instead of schools.
As soon as the news of the missing children went viral on social media, netizens have been spinning conspiracy theories, with many thinking that the schools were deliberately shut.
Schools in Lahaina could not resume on August 8 due to power failures
In the aftermath of the Lahaina fire, over 2000 people were initially reported to be missing. While the number has come down to 850 as of Monday, the unfortunate news is, most of the missing people are suspected to be children as revealed by Governor Josh Green during a CBS News talk show over the weekend.
The kids are unaccounted for as many of them were at their homes. This was because Lahaina’s main school, Lahainaluna High School, closed early on August 8, which was the first day back for the students, due to electricity outrages, and were sent back home early. Others stayed home because the elementary and middle schools were supposed to resume classes the following day.
Personal accounts from parents whose children are missing have started to pour in on social media, making netizens believe that there’s some conspiracy behind so many lost kids and schools being canceled or postponed on the day of the fire.
For instance, teenager Keyiro Fuentes was staying back at home with his pet dog in Lahaina, while his adoptive parents were out for work miles away. They told CBS News how their son was enjoying his last day of summer vacation days before his 15th birthday. As per their accounts from the day, as soon as they heard of the fire, they tried to rush back home but got stuck in traffic.
Finally, when they reached home, they were allegedly stopped by police barricades. While their house had scorched to the ground, first responders reportedly told them that the area was cleared and nobody was there. Two days later, when they were finally allowed to go back home, they discovered the bodies of their son hugging the family dog, both dead.
Likewise, Kevin and Saane Tanaka, who have opened a GoFundMe fundraiser to help their family grieve and provide for them, lost many of their close relatives including parents, siblings, and a 7-year-old nephew. As per their fundraiser description, they lost their family members while the latter were trying to flee in their car.
Two days later, their burned car was located near their home in Lahaina. At present, the couple is offering shelter to the rest of their family (around 16-20 people), who were able to evacuate in time but lost their homes to the inferno. They are now concerned about keeping everybody safe in the aftermath of the trauma they endured.
Meanwhile, on Monday, August 21, almost a fortnight after the devastating fires in Lahaina, classes have resumed. However, 1 in 4 children are still missing from nearly every grade in almost every school. For some, their schools were completely burned down, which is why almost 3,357 students will have to be relocated to different schools in other lesser-affected parts of the island of Maui.
So far, only 400 of them have re-enrolled to other schools, while 200 opted for distance learning. However, it still remains unknown how many students have relocated, enrolled elsewhere, or are no longer alive.
As of Monday, 27 out of 114 confirmed victims have been identified, with hundreds still missing and thousands displaced. Search, rescue, and recovery operations are still ongoing in the town to uncover corpses and identify those who were already deceased.