Maui confronts the challenge of finding 800 missing people after deadly fire


Two weeks after the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century swept through the Maui community of Lahaina, authorities say more than 800 people remain unaccounted for — a staggering number that presents huge challenges for officials who are trying to determine how many of those perished and how many may have made it to safety but haven’t checked in.
Something similar happened after a wildfire in 2018 that killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise, California.
Authorities in Butte County, home to Paradise, ultimately published a list of the missing in the local newspaper, a decision that helped identify scores of people who had made it out alive but were listed as missing. Within a month, the list dropped from 1,300 names to only a dozen.
“I probably had, at any given time, 10 to 15 detectives who were assigned to nothing but trying to account for people who were unaccounted for,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said in a phone interview. “At one point the local editor of our newspaper … said, ‘Hey, if you give me the names, I will print them.’ And at that point it was like, ‘Absolutely. Anything that we can do to help out.’”
But Maui authorities have opted not to publicise their list because it’s unclear whether privacy rules would prevent them from doing so, said Adam Weintraub, spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
There are also concerns about further traumatising families of those who are now listed as missing but may turn out to be dead, he added.
As of Monday, there were 115 people confirmed dead, according to Maui police.
“The names of, and any information related to the missing individuals, will not be published or be made publicly available at this time,” a Maui County spokesperson said via text message.
There are also widely varying accounts of the tally of the missing. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said Sunday on the CBS News show “Face the Nation” that more than 1,000 remained unaccounted for.