Photo: Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images
The Maui fire’s human toll is horrific: 115 people have been confirmed dead after a rapidly moving blaze swept across the west side of the Hawaiian island earlier this month, making it the deadliest wildfire in the United States in over a century. “No one has ever seen this that is alive today,” Maui police chief John Pelleiter said at a news conference in August. “Not this size, not this number, not this volume — and we’re not done.”
Officials still expect that the number of dead will rise as the FBI and local law enforcement officials try to whittle down the number of missing. But the number which remained stubbornly high a month after the blaze came down substantially on September 8, when Hawaii Governor Josh Green announced that 66 people remain missing — down from 385 people earlier in the week. (That number came down to 41 on September 12.) As the slow work to find the unaccounted for drags on, below is everything we know about those still missing on Maui.
With the search of the scorched town of Lahaina 99 percent complete, FBI teams are now looking 200 yards into the harbor, where many residents fled to escape the flames and smoke when the fire tore through town. Governor Josh Green said that the teams are not expected to find substantial numbers of new victims in the water. “We will find possibly the remains of some individuals on the boats that were out there,” he said on August 29. “There are a couple other sensitive spots that were underwater that had to be investigated. But we’re not anticipating a significant increase.”
Green added that he does not expect the death toll to rise much further, suggesting that the hundreds of those unaccounted for will be tracked down.
The number of missing people has fluctuated since the fires destroyed the town of Lahaina in early August. As of August 21, the number of missing people was at 850 — then shot up to 1,100 as the FBI vetted its database of missing people to contact and mark safe. That number fell again as efforts to contact those missing people expanded. On August 25, Maui County released a list of 388 people who were still missing.
The vetted list helped bring the number of missing further down, with several people on there wondering why they were marked as unaccounted for when they had reported themselves safe to the FBI or to FEMA.