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Report: Children Feared to Be a ‘Large Number’ of the Dead in Maui

As officials continue identifying the number of dead from the Maui fires last week, children are feared to be a “large number” of the victims.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Hawaii State Representative Elle Cochran expects that the final death toll will be “at least several hundred people,” and that a “large portion of the deceased” might turn out to be children.

The paper reported that schools in and around Lahaina canceled classes when power went out earlier that morning, and that many families in the largely working-class community left their children at home or with older relatives while they went to work.

The story echoed chilling unverified social media posts that had been circulating among social media last week, as Americans began to learn of the devastation of the fires that began on the island last Tuesday.

Jessica Sill, a kindergarten teacher at Lahaina’s King Kamehameha III Elementary School, told the paper, “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,” she said, adding that two of her former students lost a seven-year-old cousin, who was found alongside his family in a burned-out car.

Maui officials did not respond to requests for comment from the WSJ.

The paper did not identify the seven-year-old killed, but Hawaii News Now on August 13 reported that a family of four were found dead in a burned-out car near their home.

The outlet identified the victims as Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, their daughter Salote Takafua, and her son, Tony Takafua.

The family issued a statement that said, “On behalf of our family, we bid aloha to our beloved parents, Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, as well as our dear sister Salote Takafua and her son, Tony Takafua. The magnitude of our grief is indescribable, and their memories will forever remain etched in our hearts.”

So far, authorities have reported 106 confirmed dead, with less than a third of Lahaina searched.

The population of Lahaina was approximately 13,000, according to Hawaii News Now. A little more than one-quarter of that population was under 18 — higher than the national figure of 21.7%, the WSJ reported.

The paper reported that, on Monday, there were five refrigerated trucks parked at Maui’s forensic center, where authorities are working to identify recovered remains.

About 1,300 are still missing, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green told CBS. Officials are encouraging those looking for family members to submit DNA in order to help identify remains.

Another teacher, Kelly Gallego, who teaches eighth grade at Lahaina Intermediate School, is volunteering at shelters in hopes of finding some of her students.

“When it comes to thinking about some of those families not being there…I don’t have words to express how much my heart is breaking now,” she told the WSJ.

One survivor, 60-year-old Lahaina resident Matt Britt, told the paper that the fire ripped into slopes around the town, where densely populated neighborhoods have multigenerational families living together. Those families often had second dwellings on their property, called mother-in-law units.

“Those types of places, which were upslope, had the least warning,” he said.

 

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