Authorities in Maui Update Missing Persons List After Wildfire; Over 100 Confirm Safety

by Ethan Kim
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Maui Wildfire Missing Persons Update

A day after Maui County officials disclosed a list of 388 individuals missing in the aftermath of the most devastating U.S. wildfire in over a century, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stated on Friday that more than 100 people or their family members have contacted authorities to report their safety. The FBI is currently scrutinizing the information supplied to update and correct the list.

Steven Merrill, the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge in Honolulu, commented in a press briefing, “We are appreciative of those who have communicated with us via phone or email. Every name we can remove from the list allows us to focus our resources more effectively on locating those who remain unaccounted for.”

Several individuals initially listed as missing informed The Big Big News that they are in good health. However, some expressed confusion or frustration about their inclusion on the list. Tragically, at least two individuals on the list were confirmed to be among the fatalities, although official identification is still pending. The official death toll currently stands at 115.

Arturo Gonzalez Hernandez found his name on the list despite having moved away from the severely affected Lahaina area three years prior. He voiced concern over the inaccuracy of the list, citing the emotional toll it could have on those already grappling with the tragedy.

Terrí Thomas lost her life while attempting to flee the inferno by car, as reported by her cousin, Tammy Cruz. Thomas’ car was trapped in a traffic snarl-up, and only one friend managed to escape. Thomas’ family is still awaiting official notification of her demise.

The 388 names are a subset of a more expansive list, which the FBI said contained up to 1,100 reported missing persons. According to Merrill, the list did include minors, although a specific number was not disclosed.

In a similar incident following a 2018 wildfire in Paradise, California, a list of missing persons led to the identification of many who were initially presumed lost but were later found. The list eventually dwindled from 1,300 to just a dozen names.

Heidi Mazur, a Lahaina resident, voiced her exasperation about being labeled missing despite her online activity. Meanwhile, MalamaKai Watson, who was not in Lahaina during the fires, said her name remained on the official list even after she had informed the FBI of her safety.

As of Thursday afternoon, an additional 1,732 individuals reported missing had been found and confirmed safe. The search for remains among the ruins continues and is expected to last several weeks, said Army Col. David Fielder, deputy commander of the joint task force responding to the wildfires.

Darryl Oliveira, the newly appointed interim administrator for Maui’s emergency management agency, expressed his commitment to rebuilding public trust following the resignations and controversies surrounding the disaster response.

Earlier this week, officials urged family members of the missing to offer DNA samples to assist in identification, a call that has seen limited response so far. According to Maui Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Martin, the low turnout may be attributed to a deep-rooted mistrust of the government, a sentiment that has historical origins dating back to the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Reporting was contributed by Johnson from Seattle; Boone from Boise, Idaho; and Dupuy from New York. Additional contributions came from Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon; and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska.

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