HONOLULU (KHON) — The fire that consumed almost everything in its path did leave some buildings untouched in Maui’s Lahaina town.
An entire subdivision somehow managed to emerge practically untouched, even as the areas around it were destroyed. Now, in the subdivision of Kilauea Mauka, located right below Lahainaluna High School, there’s an overwhelming sense of good fortune, mixed with guilt.
“God blessed us. He saved us, I believe that,” said Lahaina resident, James Tanaka, whose home just lost a few shingles.
The fire burned right alongside the subdivision. With the exception of some burnt rooftops, there isn’t extensive damage.
Residents who consider themselves lucky are doing what they can to pay it forward. Leo Ramelb set up a distribution hub in his driveway, handing out water, food and other supplies to families who weren’t as fortunate.
Others are doing the same. Drive through the streets of this small community and you’ll see signs of giving and gratitude everywhere. Some garages and driveways look like improvised convenience stores.
“We keep it organized, make everyone feel comfortable,” said Davin Balagso. “Everyone’s getting what they need, but they need more.”
While he remains focused on giving, Balagso is still searching for some of his loved ones.
“Most of my family made it out,” Balagso said. “We’re still looking for some, but just to know exactly what’s going on with them, where they’re at, just to get some peace would be awesome.”
Through tears, he said he sees hope in the future for Lahaina.
“Please keep praying for us,” he said. “The community is coming together really strong and we are helping each other out. But we will build Lahaina again and make it better than it was.”
“We are Lahaina. Lahaina is still here. Houses and possessions are gone. Families are gone never forgotten, and that’s what we have to do – stick together as strong as we can,” said Tanaka. “We will be standing soon. We will persevere.”
The remains of 114 people have been found, most of them yet to be identified. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green has said the death toll will likely rise in the days to come as the painstaking search for remains continues in the heaps of rubble and ash in Lahaina, a seaside community of 12,000 and a tourist hotspot on Maui.
Officials acknowledge they don’t have a firm number on the missing. Many initially listed as unaccounted for have since been located.
Crews have sifted through about 60% of the fire zone, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell said Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.