Maui County has recently made public the names of 388 individuals who are still missing following the devastating wildfire that swept through the historic seaside community of Lahaina. This wildfire, which is the deadliest in more than a century in the United States, has tragically resulted in the loss of 115 lives, a number that is expected to rise.
To be included on the list, names had to meet specific criteria. Officials required both the first and last name of an individual, as well as a verified contact for the person who reported them missing. By Thursday afternoon, an additional 1,732 individuals who were previously reported missing had been found safe.
In light of the ongoing efforts, it is noteworthy that there are still approximately 1,000 to 1,100 names on the tentative, unconfirmed list of people who remain unaccounted for. Surprisingly, only 104 families have provided DNA samples thus far, a considerably lower figure compared to previous major disasters across the country. Maui County Police Chief Pelletier revealed the challenges his team faced in compiling an accurate list. Some individuals provided incomplete names, while others had duplicate entries. There was a concern that in releasing this list, Hawaii officials would inadvertently disclose the identities of those who have tragically lost their lives.
Search Continues for Wildfire Victims
Officials announced on Thursday that they had successfully notified the families of 35 out of the 46 individuals who were identified as victims. These individuals were tragically caught in the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the area. In their latest update, officials released the names of eight victims, including a family of four who were found in their burned car near their home. The victims have been identified as Tony Takafua, a 7-year-old boy, his mother Salote Tone (39), and his grandparents Faaoso (70) and Maluifonua (73) Tone.
Rescue teams have been tirelessly searching a 4-mile stretch of water for any signs of additional victims. Their efforts have also extended to sifting through the ashes of destroyed businesses and residential buildings. Although approximately 85 percent of the affected area has been cleared, the search operation is expected to take several more weeks to reach completion. Army Col. David Fielder, deputy commander of the joint task force responding to the wildfires, emphasized the complexity of the remaining structures that need to be cleared. Additional equipment will soon be deployed to aid in the removal of these structures and recovery of any remaining remains. Fielder estimated that it will take weeks, rather than days, to complete this arduous task.
The response efforts have received significant support from various agencies, including more than 725 Department of Defense personnel and 136 Coast Guardsmen.
Meanwhile, Maui County took legal action on Thursday by suing Hawaiian Electric Co. The county alleges that the utility was negligent in failing to shut off power during the extreme winds and dry conditions that prevailed. Witness accounts and video evidence suggest that the fires were ignited by sparks from power lines as utility poles snapped in the hurricane-force winds.
In response to the lawsuit, Hawaii Electric expressed disappointment, stating that it believes pursuing legal action is premature while the investigation is still ongoing.