110 people remain missing almost a month after Maui fires

Dozens of people are still missing a month on from the devastating Maui wildfire.

A total of 115 fatalities were confirmed by the Maui Police Department (MPD) on Monday after the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century.

Officials have identified 54 individuals and their families have been notified. Another five people have been identified but their families have not yet been informed of their deaths. The remaining victims have yet to be identified.

Police also confirmed on Monday that there are 110 missing person reports relating to the Lahaina fire. Lahaina, once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, was largely destroyed by blazes with hundreds of buildings, including many homes, wiped out. Reconstruction is expected to take years and cost billions.

Initially, more than 1,000 people were believed unaccounted for based on family, friends or acquaintances reporting them as missing. Officials narrowed that list down to 388 names who were credibly considered missing and released the names to the public last week.

The fires turned the oceanfront town into rubble in a few short hours on 8 August. Winds, from a hurricane hundreds of miles away, topped 60mph and caused flames to leap through the town. Many residents became trapped by downed trees and powerlines, leaving them no escape routes. Others were forced to jump into the ocean to escape the flames.

MPD said that 41 of the missing person reports are “actively being investigated and are considered open”. Authorities urged those with family members or loved ones still missing to file a report in order to identify, document, or locate individuals who are unaccounted for.

Hawaii Governor Josh Green reported on Monday that 99 per cent of land-based searches had been completed in Maui with some searches of the ocean ongoing.

The aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
The aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

He also reported that 5,614 residents displaced by the fires were living in hotels and 1,100 were in Airbnbs while long-term housing solutions were worked out.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has cleared 232 land parcels of hazardous waste, allowing residents to begin to return, Governor Green said.

The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, but it’s possible powerlines from downed utility poles ignited the blaze. Maui County has sued Hawaiian Electric, the electrical utility for the island.

The utility acknowledged its power lines started a wildfire early on 8 August but faulted county firefighters for declaring the blaze contained and leaving the scene, only to have a second wildfire break out nearby.

With reporting from the Associated Press