In a devastating update, officials in Hawaii have announced that 850 people are still listed as missing following the deadly Lahaina wildfire. The announcement was made by Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen, who cited data compiled by the FBI and local authorities. Bissen also revealed that the wildfires have claimed the lives of at least 114 individuals, making it the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history.
Taking to social media, Mayor Bissen posted a video to provide an important update on the efforts to find the missing individuals. He explained that out of the 114 deceased, only 27 have been identified and their families have been notified. Bissen further emphasized that this remains a developing story and updates will be provided as the situation progresses.
The staggering number of missing people was the result of the FBI combining and refining various lists of missing individuals. However, Bissen expressed a mix of sadness and relief, stating, "We are both saddened and relieved about these numbers." He explained that when the search and rescue process began, the missing person list contained over 2,000 names. Yet, as cellphone communications were restored, and people were able to make contact with their loved ones, the number gradually decreased. Bissen acknowledged that this count is a positive sign and shared that over 1,285 people have been located safe.
However, arriving at an accurate count in a mass casualty disaster such as this can be an arduous task, often taking months or even years. Lynn Goldman, an epidemiologist and the dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, emphasized the complexity of the process. She explained that researchers and forensic anthropologists are still working to determine who was in the area during the fire and who may still be missing. This includes residents of Lahaina, tourists, and transients. Goldman drew from her experience studying the death toll after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in 2017, stating, "The death toll number is always provisional, in a way. I assume people won't stop trying to find remains, and the work will take a very, very long time."
To aid in the identification process, the FBI recently opened a site where people can provide DNA samples. These samples will be matched with the remains that have already been found, expediting the process of identifying victims. This step is crucial in bringing closure to the families who are anxiously awaiting news of their missing loved ones.
As the search and recovery efforts continue, the community of Maui and the entire nation mourns the devastating loss caused by the deadly Lahaina wildfire. The focus now lies on supporting the affected families and ensuring that every effort is made to bring closure to those still missing.
themes: Washington Hawaii