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Authorities on the island of Maui are attempting to locate over 800 people who have gone missing following massive forest fires.


Authorities on the island of Maui are trying to locate over 800 people who are missing following a massive forest fire that engulfed the town of Lahaina. This fire has been the deadliest forest fire in the United States in over a century. Officials are facing a significant challenge in determining how many of the missing individuals have perished and how many may have reached safety but have not been registered.

A similar situation occurred after the 2018 forest fire that led to 85 fatalities and the destruction of the town of Paradise in California. Authorities in Butte County, where Paradise is located, eventually published a list of missing individuals in the local newspaper. This decision helped identify dozens of people who had managed to escape but were still listed as missing. Within a month, the list was reduced from 1,300 names to just ten.

However, Maui authorities have chosen not to disclose their list, as it is unclear whether privacy regulations would pose obstacles. There are also concerns that making such a list public could further traumatize the families of those listed as missing but potentially deceased, according to Adam Weintraub, a spokesperson for the Hawaii State Emergency Management Agency.

According to Maui police, as of Monday, 115 fatalities have been confirmed.

"Names and any information related to those missing are not currently being released and are not subject to public disclosure," said a statement from the Maui County spokesperson.

The number of missing individuals varies widely, with estimates ranging from 500 to 1,000.

The American Red Cross has stated that it is compiling its own list of missing individuals separately from law enforcement agencies. They are doing this based on requests received by their information center and data collected by their field teams, said spokesperson Daniel Parra. Additionally, the organization has entered into data-sharing agreements with federal, state, and local authorities to assist in reuniting families and providing information about their well-being.

Parra stated that the American Red Cross has successfully fulfilled approximately 2,400 requests for reuniting or providing well-being information out of over 3,000 received by the organization. A fulfilled request means that the organization has managed to locate the missing individual or verify their status in a medical facility.

This kind of social work is crucial because searching for human remains after forest fires and establishing the deaths of missing individuals can be a complex and lengthy process. Fire experts suggest that some bodies may have been completely incinerated, turning into ashes, making identification through DNA testing the only option.