MAUI DEVASTATED: "At least we have closure for them, but the loss and heartbreak is unbearable for many." PHOTO COURTESY OF YOUTUBE.COM
LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) – Parishioners mourned the dead and prayed for the missing Sunday in Hawaii churches as communities began looking ahead to a long recovery from last week`s wildﬁre that demolished a historic Maui town and killed more than 100 people.
Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina was spared from the flames that wiped out most of the surrounding community, but with search-and-recovery efforts ongoing, its members attended Mass about 10 miles up the road, with the Bishop of Honolulu, the Rev. Clarence "Larry" Silva, presiding.
Taufa Samisoni said his uncle, aunt, cousin and the cousin’s 7-year-old son were found dead inside a burned car. Samisoni`s wife, Katalina, said the family would draw comfort from Silva`s reference to the Bible story of how Jesus` disciple Peter walked on water and was saved from drowning.
"If Peter can walk on water, yes we can. We will get to the shore," she said, her voice quivering.
During the Mass, Silva read a message from Pope Francis, who said he was praying for those who lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. He also conveyed prayers for ﬁrst responders.
Silva later told The Associated Press that the community is worried about its children, who have witnessed tragedy and are anxious.
"The more they can be in a normal situation with their peers and learning and having fun, I think the better off they’ll be," Silva said.
Meanwhile, Hawaii ofﬁcials urged tourists to avoid traveling to Maui as many hotels prepared to house evacuees and ﬁrst responders.
About 46,000 residents and visitors have flown out of Kahului Airport in West Maui since the devastation in Lahaina became clear Wednesday, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
“In the weeks ahead, the collective resources and attention of the federal, state and county government, the West Maui community, and the travel industry must be focused on the recovery of residents who were forced to evacuate their homes and businesses,” the agency said in a statement late Saturday. Tourists are encouraged to visit Hawaii`s other islands.
Gov. Josh Green said 500 hotels rooms will be made available for locals who have been displaced. An additional 500 rooms will be set aside for workers from the Federal Emergency
Management Agency. Some hotels will carry on with normal business to help preserve jobs and sustain the local economy, Green said.
The state wants to work with Airbnb to make sure that rental homes can be made available for locals. Green hopes that the company will be able to provide three- to nine-month rentals for those who have lost homes.
As the death toll around Lahaina climbed to 93, authorities warned that the effort to ﬁnd and identify the dead was still in its early stages. The blaze is already the deadliest U.S. wildﬁre in more than a century.
Crews with cadaver dogs have covered just 3% of the search area, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said Saturday.
Lylas Kanemoto is awaiting word about the fate of her cousin, Glen Yoshino.
"I’m afraid he is gone because we have not heard from him, and he would’ve found a way to contact family. We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, " Kanemoto said Sunday. Family members will submit DNA to help identify any remains.
The family was grieving the death of four other relatives. The remains of Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, their daughter, Salote Takafua, and her son, Tony Takafua, were found inside a charred car.
"At least we have closure for them, but the loss and heartbreak is unbearable for many," Kanemoto said.
As many as 4,500 people are in need of shelter, county officials said on Facebook, citing figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pacific Disaster Center.
J.P. Mayoga, a cook at the Westin Maui in Kaanapali, is still making breakfast, lunch and dinner on a daily basis. But instead of serving hotel