Almost 400 still missing after Maui wildfires

Officials release names of 388 people who have not been located amid the destruction on Hawaiian island

Ethan Meyers carries crosses to put up to honour the victims killed in a recent wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii. AP
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Hawaii officials released the names of 388 people still missing more than two weeks after the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century swept through the resort town of Lahaina.

The list, compiled by the FBI, includes only people whose full names are known and who were reported missing by someone for whom authorities have verified contact information.

The death toll from the August 8 fire on the island of Maui stands at 115, but officials have warned that figure is likely to rise substantially, with search teams still sifting through the ashes.

In releasing the names late on Thursday, authorities urged anyone who knows that someone on the list is safe, or has additional information that might help locate them, to contact the FBI.

Officials also encouraged relatives to submit the names of anyone else still missing and to provide DNA samples to assist in identifying remains.

The number of families that have provided DNA is lower than authorities had hoped thus far, making a difficult job even more challenging.

“We also know that once those names come out, it can and will cause pain for folks whose loved ones are listed,” said Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier.

“This is not an easy thing to do, but we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make this investigation as complete and thorough as possible.”

Officials had said earlier in the week that they had a running list of 1,000 to 1,100 people still unaccounted for. But they warned that the tally included some people with only a single name, some duplicate listings and some people whose genders were unclear.

As of Thursday afternoon, an additional 1,732 people initially reported missing had been found, officials said.

Many families have waited anxiously for news about missing loved ones after the wildfire tore through Lahaina at lightning speed, fuelled by high winds from a passing hurricane and dry conditions.

Survivors, some of whom jumped into the Pacific Ocean to escape the flames, have said they had little or no warning, prompting officials to launch reviews of the island's emergency alert protocols.

The fire is the deadliest in the US since a 1918 forest fire in Minnesota and Wisconsin killed more than 450.

On Thursday, Maui County sued Hawaiian Electric for failing to shut down its equipment despite warnings that the high winds could knock down power lines.

“We are very disappointed that Maui County chose this litigious path while the investigation is still unfolding,” the company said in response to a request for comment.

Updated: August 25, 2023, 8:39 PM