How many people died in Maui fires? Officials near end of search for wildfire victims?

31 August 2023

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USA – Authorities in Maui are nearing the end of the search and recovery phase of their response to the historic wildfires that devastated Lahaina, Hawaii.

More than three weeks after the fires, the count of confirmed dead has stood at 115 for several days, making it the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than a century. An unknown number of people are still missing even as authorities say they have covered 100% of the Lahaina disaster area.

“Our hearts are broken, but we have small hope that there won’t be more fatalities,” Gov. Josh Green said.

The next phase of the response, Maui County officials said Tuesday, will be to remove hazardous materials from the burn areas so residents can safely return.

“We’re calling the phase after the hazardous material removal phase the ‘Return to Lahaina’ phase. We really want to stress we want to get people back home,” said recently appointed interim Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Darryl Oliveira.

Where have officials searched?

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said Tuesday that officials were able to accelerate their search of the burn area thanks to more than 400 search personnel and more than 40 dogs.

The urban search crews have completed 100% of their search area, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said, but teams were still searching areas of the ocean, where some people fled as the fire whipped across land.

The FBI is searching a 4-mile stretch of the coastline 200 yards out.

“No human remains have been found by the search crews since they’ve been there,” Pelletier said.

Unknown how many people are still missing

Officials said a new police list of unaccounted for people would be released Friday, but it’s unclear how many people still haven’t been reached by loved ones three weeks later.

Last week, the county released an FBI-vetted list of 388 people missing but said a day later that more than 100 had contacted officials to say they were safe. Pelletier said Tuesday that 110 missing-persons reports have been filed with Maui police, and of those, at least 50 were still open cases.

He said authorities won’t be giving a daily list of people missing and asked for patience as officials continue sorting through who is unaccounted for.

The police department said 48 of the 115 confirmed dead had been identified and their families had been notified; families of an additional six people confirmed dead hadn’t been located or notified yet.

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