In an update to last month’s devastating wildfires in Maui, the death toll has been updated to 97, a notable decrease from the previously reported 115 fatalities, as announced by Hawaii’s Governor last Friday.
This adjustment in the death count emerged as a result of intensive genetic testing carried out by anthropologists from the Department of Defense. Governor Josh Green shared insights into the testing process, stating that the advanced methodologies ensured accurate identification of victims, avoiding the confusion that can sometimes result in inflated death counts. He highlighted a scenario where a car containing multiple passengers might initially be reported as carrying more victims than it actually contained.
At this point, 31 souls remain unaccounted for, their identities lost amid the ashes of the once-thriving communities of Maui County. However, this number is also anticipated to decrease, considering that 23 fatalities from the fire are yet to be identified and may well form part of that 31 count.
Notorious for their rapid, erratic spread beginning on August 8, the fires have left indelible scars on the landscape and populace of Maui. The historic town of Lahaina was significantly impacted, its residents fleeing in terror as flames engulfed their homes, and many forced to plunge into the ocean in a desperate bid for survival. In the aftermath, rescue and recovery crews tirelessly raked through the rubbles of homes, businesses, and historic landmarks, clinging onto any remaining vestiges of life or opportunity for body recovery.
As recovery and rebuilding efforts continue, plans are in place to reopen West Maui on October 8. At present, efforts are ongoing to transition over 7,400 evacuees from temporary hotel accommodation to more permanent housing arrangements. The Governor also noted that the community is expecting an influx of support from visitants around the world rallying to help in the recovery. He emphasized, however, that visitors must remain respectful and considerate during their stay.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency has its hands full with the gargantuan task of clearing hazardous materials from the disaster-stricken zones in Maui. Plans for guiding residents back to their homes are starting to take shape, with the announcement of the first return-ready zones anticipated next week. Thereafter, from September 22, residents and property owners will be required to secure passes for reentry. The first official return visits, complete with provided personal protective gear, are slated to commence Monday, September 25.