More than 60 people still missing after devastating Hawaii wildfires

One month after the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century devastated the historic Hawaiian town of Lahaina, there are still more than 60 people missing.

Hawaii Gov Josh Green said Friday that the number has gone down to 66, which is a significant drop from a week earlier when authorities said 385 people were unaccounted for.

The deadly wildfires started in the hills above Lahaina on 8 August, and within hours spread through the oceanfront town, sending people into the ocean to seek refuge from the flames, destroying more than 2,000 structures and causing an estimated $5.5 billion in damage.

The death toll remains at 115 and Maui police have released 55 names of those deceased. Out of that number, 22 people were in their 70s, and 13 people were in their 60s. There was one victim who was under the age of 10.

The governor said Friday that with half the deceased still unidentified, he expected there to be significant overlap between the names on the missing list and remains that have already been recovered.

Because of this, he did not expect the death toll to rise considerably.

“We’re starting to see that the universe of 115 fatalities is about where we are,” Mr Green said. “There may be some additional fatalities as we go through the next month.”

 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

In an update on Friday, Maui police said that in addition to the 66 people confirmed missing, there are 80 additional names of potentially missing people that the agency is vetting for credibility, The Associated Press reported.

In those cases, no information was provided for the reporting party or the reporting party was not available to provide further details.

In the coming weeks, authorities will begin to schedule supervised visits and escort residents back to the area to survey their properties, Mr Green announced, adding that people must be careful and take precautions as the ash is toxic.

As residents return and the island is reopened to tourists, there will be tens of millions of dollars in aid flowing in to help as the community recovers.

Travel restrictions to West Maui are set to end on 8 October.

The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission were destroyed in the fires
The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission were destroyed in the fires

“If we support Maui’s economy and keep our people employed, they will heal faster and continue to afford to live on Maui,” Mr Green said, adding that donations have poured in to the American Red Cross, the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Maui United Way and other organizations.

The governor announced that he has authorized $100 million from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program “to support what others donate, magnifying the power of their generosity.”

The government is also making $25 million available to help businesses survive, distributed in grants of $10,000 to $20,000, he added.