Some 850 people are believed to be missing following days-long wildfires across Maui last week, the island’s mayor said Monday, after more than 100 people died in the deadliest American wildfire in over a century.
At least 114 people have died as a result of the wildfires, Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said in a Facebook video Monday.
Only 27 of those deceased victims have been identified by authorities and 11 of those victims’ families have been notified, Bissen said.
Bissen said the number of missing people has fallen by more than half: Over 1,285 people have been located safe, and once cellphone communications were restored to the island, the number of people initially thought to be missing fell.
“There is positive news in this number, because when this process began the missing person list contained over 2,000 names,” Bissen said in the video.
The number of people confirmed to be dead is likely to rise in the coming days as search and rescue efforts continue on the island, after the wildfires decimated Maui and specifically the town of Lahaina last week. Identifying fire victims can be difficult and time-consuming because some of the remains are badly damaged, experts say. Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz (D) described the town of Lahaina as “almost totally burnt to the ground” as a result of the fires. Officials in Maui were criticized for their initial response to the wildfires, particularly after the head of Maui’s emergency management agency, Herman Andaya, did not sound the island’s 80 emergency alarms. Andaya argued that residents were “trained to seek higher ground” when the sirens went off, which would have endangered residents and led them towards the fires instead of away. Andaya resigned Thursday, citing unspecified “health reasons.”
What To Watch For
President Joe Biden and the first lady are headed to Maui on Monday to see the aftermath of the fires. Their visit comes after days of criticism of the president’s lack of comment on the disaster. Last weekend, while Biden was vacationing in Delaware, he repeatedly responded to questions about the fires by saying “no comment.” “I want to go, make sure we’ve got everything they need,” Biden said Tuesday during a speech in Wisconsin. The president also said he wanted to ensure his visit didn’t “disrupt the ongoing recovery efforts.”
$5.6 million. That’s how much the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved in relief for Maui residents affected by the recent wildfires, the agency said Friday. About $2.3 million of those funds will be allocated to rental assistance to nearly 2,000 households across Maui, FEMA said. Additionally, each household will receive a $700 one-time payment people can put towards transportation, clothing or food, the agency said.