LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — The days of waiting grow harder as the odds grow ever greater, but Kevin Baclig remains undeterred in his search for his wife and her parents. missing since August 8th if wildfire twisted and flattened the Hawaiian city of Lahaina.
He’s been going from one shelter to the next, hoping strangers might spot the faces on the flyers he brings. The 30-year-old Baclig has kept going to Lahaina, desperate for anything that might bring him to his wife, Angelica, and their parents, Joel and Adela Villegas. Six other relatives who lived next door are also missing.
“I won’t give up until I see her,” he said. “Of course I hope to find her alive. … What else can I do?”
Even when he tries to sound upbeat, his voice is muffled.
“I’ve searched and searched — in Lahaina, everywhere,” Baclig said, speaking in Ilocano, a dialect of the northern Philippines.
the fire took dozens of lives And destroyed hundreds of homesincluding the home Baclig’s family bought three years ago on Kopili Street, about a 15-minute walk from historic Front Street, once a bustling tourist hub but now a desolate avenue of derelict buildings lined with charred vehicles.
The remains of 114 people were found, most of them not yet identified. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said the death toll is likely to rise in the coming days as the diligent search for remains in the rubble and ash piles in Lahaina, a coastal community of 12,000 people, continues a tourist hotspot on Maui.
Officials admit they don’t have an exact number of the missing person. Many of the people originally classified as missing have now been found.
Earlier this week Police Chief John Pelletier said authorities were doing their best to track down the missing. “But I can’t promise we’ll get them all,” he said.
The day before the fire, Po’omaika’i Estores-Losano, a 28-year-old father of two, wished his ohana, the Hawaiian word for family, aloha. “Another beautiful day in Hawaii,” he wrote on Facebook, ending his post by urging his friends to “have fun, enjoy” and never be “unhappy and grumpy.”
He was one of the points that were still missing on Saturday. His family have been scouring the island looking for him, checking hospitals and emergency shelters. Without a car, Estores-Losano would have had to escape the fire and smoke.
“We don’t want him to think we’ve stopped looking for him,” said Ku’ulei Barut, who last spoke to her brother the day before he disappeared.
His mother, Leona Castillo, wants to hold onto the possibility that her son is still alive, but she knows she may have to face a reality she cannot yet accept. Last week, as the discussion about the body count grew louder, she had a DNA swab done.
She wants him found no matter how or where.
“We don’t want him to be lost,” she said. “If we don’t get his body back, he’s just lost.”
In the days after the fire there was chaos and confusion, with so many families searching for missing loved ones. Castillo said she was relieved to have friends and neighbors reunited with loved ones.
But she wondered when it would be her turn.
“I just want a degree,” she said.
Ace Yabes is also awaiting news of his relatives – nine are missing in all, including Angelica Baclig, whose family lived next door to an aunt and her family, five of whom have still not been found.
Kevin Baclig was working as a male nurse at a nursing home when the fire sped from the hills into the city, setting ablaze almost everything in its path.
“I’ve searched all the shelters, hotels and possible locations – I’ve gone to all of them. I went to her friends’ houses,” he said. “I’ve reported her missing to the MPD (Maui Police Department) and the FBI. I showed her pictures.”
Baclig, staying with friends in Kahalui on the island’s northern flank, finds hope in his quest.
Perhaps in their rush to flee, no one had time to grab their phones – which could explain why Baclig hasn’t received a call so far. Perhaps they are also looking for him and do not know where he is.
Amid fear and uncertainty, and as he nears the end of his travail, he continues to pray for help.
“Lord, guide me in all things,” he wrote on Facebook Thursday. “I do not know what to do.”