By Liliana Salgado
LAHAINA, Hawaii (Reuters) - There's nothing left of what used to be her home. But Susie Richter still travels every morning to the burnt-out shell of her house in Lahaina, Hawaii, to feed her three cats, who survived the blaze that devastated Maui earlier this month.
The first time she returned, she feared the worst for her pets.
"I felt in my heart that they were here and I didn't expect to find all of them, but I did. And of course, tears and just hugs," she said.
The main fire-damaged areas of Lahaina remain closed to residents, but some of the structures in Richter's neighborhood are still standing, so she is permitted to enter through a checkpoint.
Her surviving pets are a glimpse of hope after losing everything she owned in the fire, Richter said. The island of Maui is in mourning, with at least 114 people killed. According to investigators, between 1,000 and 1,100 names remain on their running list of people who are unaccounted for.
"The process is ongoing and so is the grief," said Richter. "But the little, little bits of joy - I'll take any good news I can get."
Maui County officials say they have now searched all of the single-story residential properties in the disaster area.
Among the rubble of her home, Richter found part of a porcelain angel from a jewelry box. She said it reminded her how lucky she and her furry friends were to survive.
"We made it out," she said. "Not everyone did."
(Reporting by Liliana Salgado, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)