Hawaii governor gives hopeful update on search for residents missing after Maui wildfires

The number of unaccounted for people in Maui following the fatal fires could drop to the double digits, according to Hawaii’s top politician.

Governor Josh Green told CNN on Thursday that the list could drop to below 50 names. “The formal announcement will be tomorrow from the FBI and the group that’s working on this,” he said.

“I think we’re going to hear a number in the lower double digits tomorrow, hopefully under 50,” Mr Green added.

“And it’s not much consolation because our hearts are broken that we lost 115 people for sure, but it is something that we are grateful that it is not 800 or 1,000 like people were projecting earlier,” the governor added. On Friday, “we should have a much tighter number for everyone.”

He also said in a video on X that the number of fatalities remains at 115 people, adding that officials have “basically finished the search, with the exception of a little bit of the water area.”

Last week, officials announced that 388 people were still missing. That number has since been slashed, though, as at least 100 individuals named on the list came forward and told the FBI they were safe.

“We’re very thankful for the people who have reached out by phone or email,” Steven Merrill, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Honolulu, said. “As we get someone off of a list, this has enabled us to devote more resources to those who are still on the list.”

President Joe Biden said earlier this week that he was still “laser focused” on helping Hawaii recover from the wildfires.

Mr Biden also announced $95 million in infrastructure funds for Maui that will pay for stronger powers line and technology to send alerts about power disruptions.

The president told residents, some of who have complained that officials won’t let them return to their homes, that the federal government has to remove hazardous material from the properties before they can return.

“We’re doing everything we can to move heaven and earth to help you recover, rebuild and return to your lives,” he said, adding that the situation will be as “frustrating as the devil for people.”

“I want to be clear with the people of Maui about what to expect, he added. “The work we’re doing is going to take time, in some cases a long time.”