Vanished: 850 people missing as Maui wildfire search and rescue continues
A minimum of 114 people have been confirmed dead and 850 people remain missing after Hawaiian wildfires ravaged western part of Maui
August 21, 2023 12:25pm
Updated: August 21, 2023 3:16pm
A minimum of 114 people have been confirmed dead and 850 people remain missing after Hawaiian wildfires ravaged western part of Maui, the Hawaiian island's mayor, Richard Bissen, said Monday morning. The 850 estimate came after government officials were able to narrow the list of those missing from 2,000.
Using lists compiled by the American Red Cross, FBI Honolulu, Maui Police Department and the government Emergency Management Agency, U.S. law enforcement officials were able to narrow the estimates, Bissen explained in a video released on social media.
Of the 114 people killed, 27 were identified and 11 families were notified, Bissen said.
The FBI and Maui County Coroner are collaborating as part of a joint effort to identify the recovered remains of those who perished in what is now being noted as the fire is the deadliest American wildfire in the last several decades.
The 850 number came own from 2,000 after more than 1,285 people were found, identified and marked as safe.
The number is an improvement from estimates given by Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, who on Sunday morning told CBS News' “Meet the Press” that “more than 1,000 [people] are unaccounted for, about 1,050,” adding that the search “will take several weeks still.”
So far, search and rescue teams have reportedly covered an estimated 85% of the Maui landscapes. The search has partially been obstructed and slowed down by large buildings which were damaged during the fire, making searching unsafe for rescuers.
The temperature of the fire has also made it "impossible" to recover some remains, Green explained.
“We are both saddened and relieved about these numbers as we continue the recovery process,” Bissen said in his message Monday. “The number identified will rise, and the number of missing may decrease, but there will be daily fluctuations in the numbers as family members are added and removed from the list.”
Relatives in Maui who are waiting for news about their loved ones have been asked to give authorities DNA samples to help find prospective matches to remains. Some of those samples were being turned over at the Family Assistance Center at a Hyatt hotel in Maui.
Family members who remain in the continental U.S. or other Hawaiian islands have been asked to contact the FBI to schedule a time to turn over a DNA sample.
Bissen said he will hold another press conference Tuesday, Aug. 22. He said that while he usually takes questions from the media, he is asking the public to email his office with questions.
The fires have ignited a massive controversy in Hawaii and in the media since the Maui Emergency Management Agency failed to sound its emergency sirens during the blaze, which began Aug. 8. The agency's head, Herman Andaya, resigned last week amid rising criticism.
Maui’s mayor, Richard Bissen, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.