Public schools on Maui started the process of reopening and a major access road reopened in signs of recovery a week after wildfires demolished a historic town and killed over 100 people, even as officials raised concerns Wednesday that the very young and old were among the dead on Hawaii’s second-largest island.
At least three schools untouched by flames in Lahaina, where entire neighborhoods were reduced to ash, were still being assessed after sustaining wind damage, said Hawaii Department of Education superintendent Keith Hayashi. The campuses will open when they’re deemed safe.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but overall the campuses and classrooms are in good condition structurally, which is encouraging,” Hayashi said in a video update. “We know the recovery effort is still in the early stages, and we continue to grieve the many lives lost.”
Elsewhere on Maui, crews cleaned up ash and debris at schools, and tested air and water quality. Displaced students who enroll at those campuses can access services such as meals and counseling, Hayashi said. The education department is also offering counseling for kids, family members and staff.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened its first disaster recovery center on Maui, “an important first step” toward helping residents get information about assistance, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said Wednesday. They also can go there for updates on their aid applications.
Criswell said she would accompany President Joe Biden on Monday when he visits Maui to survey the damage and “bring hope.”
Meanwhile, transportation officials said the Lahaina Bypass Road, closed since Aug. 8, was open again, allowing residents to access the burn zone.
With the death toll already at 106, a mobile morgue unit with additional coroners arrived in Hawaii on Tuesday to help with the grim task of sorting through remains.
Search and recovery crews using cadaver dogs had scoured approximately 30% of the burn area by Tuesday, officials said. The number of canine teams was increasing to more than 40 because of the difficulty and scope of the operation, FEMA said. The dogs need to rest frequently because of the terrain and heat.