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Maui County officials discuss efforts to account for the missing

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UPDATE: 4:20 p.m

Between 1,000 and 1,100 people are unaccounted for following the deadly wildfires that destroyed Lahaina, according to Steven Merrill, special agent in charge, of the FBI’s Honolulu field office.

FBI agents, members of the bureau’s evidence response team and forensic science experts are working with Maui police to pull together a comprehensive list.

The bureau’s efforts on Maui are being aided by a command post in Kapolei staffed by agents and intelligence analysts. Merrill urged family members of the missing to submit DNA samples.

Speaking at a news conference on the ninth floor of the county building in Wailuku, Merrill told reporters that agents and police are combining lists of unaccounted for people from an array of sources.

They include family members, the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, official missing persons reports filed with police, crowd sourced lists like the Maui Fires People Locator, state agencies, and traditional investigations. He urged family members to donate DNA and ensure investigators have as much information as possible.

“Please, follow…up to ensure they have the most accurate and up to date information,” said Merrill, who noted some list entries only include a first name and a phone number. “We may not know, in the end, about everybody. We need families to come forward and create their samples. This is a critical step. The DNA can be used to link family members together.”

Maui police Chief John Pelletier, in response to a reporter’s question, said the department will eventually release a list of names and identifying information.

He urged people looking for family and friends to file official missing persons reports with police.

Despite more than 1000 people missing, Pelletier said he only has 85 missing persons reports and urged people to email and file a formal report.

“We want you to do a report,” said Pelletier. “I have 85 (missing persons reports). If you are serious, do a police report. Don’t waste our time when we’re trying to do the right thing.”

UPDATE: 3:30 p.m.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is requesting that families who are searching for missing loved ones follow up with the agency’s new hotline to provide the most updated information to aid in the search for the missing or unaccounted for in Maui fires.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill said the hotline to call is 808-566-4300. The FBI office will collect the information of the missing such as birthdates and input the data into a spreadsheet, which will then be provided to the Maui Police Department, he said.

“We really need the public’s help,” Merrill said.

First name, last name, birthdate and gender of the missing or unaccounted for will help officials verify the list quicker, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said.

Officials are urging any immediate family member of the missing to provide a DNA sample to assist in identifying the remains, reiterating that the information won’t be stored or used for any other purpose.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier today again urged the public for patience in the search for the missing or unaccounted for in Maui fires. Pelletier said authorities are working to verify and scrub a list of the missing to be released in the “next few days.”

Pelletier said every single structure or area that has been destroyed in Lahaina will be searched for remains.

“We are going to do this right,” Pelletier said, repeating comments he made before. “We are not going to do this fast.”

Responding to a reporter’s question, Pelletier said he does not know the exact number of how many children are among the missing.

“We have not confirmed any one of them at this point,” Pelletier said.

Officials have so far collected 104 DNA samples from families.


Maui County officials are holding a press conference this afternoon to discuss the efforts to account for the several hundred reported as still missing or unaccounted for after the Aug. 8 fires on Maui.

The Star-Advertiser earlier today reported no official list of the names and number of people missing is publicly available.

RELATED: Details are still not available on people missing in Lahaina

The community-organized, crowd-sourced Maui Fires People Locator had 724 entries this morning, however, some entries included more than one person. Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said Sunday night that there are an estimated 850 people unaccounted for — down from estimates of about 1,000.

The confirmed death toll is at 115 as of Monday evening, and Maui County officials said that 100% of the single-family residences have now been searched in Lahaina. Authorities are turning their search to destroyed or damaged multistory structures in the historic seaside town.

Honolulu Fire Department rescue divers, Maui Fire Department personnel and the U.S. Navy completed underwater searches of Lahaina Harbor over the weekend, according to MFD in a Facebook post today.

For this afternoon’s press conference, speakers include Maui Mayor Richard Bissen; Maui Police Chief John Pelletier; FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill and Julie French, a subject-matter expert in DNA identification; Maui Fire Chief Brad Ventura; and Maui Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Martin.

The livestream is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.


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