(HONOLULU) — The search on land for further victims of the deadly wildfires in Maui is essentially complete, officials told reporters Monday, according to Honolulu ABC affiliate KITV, as crews move to the water in search of possible remaining victims.
Officials say they don’t expect the death toll to rise much higher in the final stages of the search, despite a list of 388 individuals who are unaccounted for, which was posted on Aug. 24.
So far, 115 people have been declared dead from the fire, of which 45 have been identified.
Dr. Jeremy Thomas Stuelpnagel, the coroner’s physician, said at a press conference Tuesday that the identification process has been complex, urging people who have relatives missing to submit DNA swabs since a lack of samples makes the process more difficult.
Maui County officials say as of Aug. 28 that Lahaina fire remains 90% contained, affecting an estimated 2,170 acres. The Olinda fire, affecting an estimated 1,081 acres, is 85% contained, while the Kula fire is 90% contained, affecting an estimated 202 acres. The Maui Fire Department states that though efforts continue to completely extinguish the fires, there are no active threats among them.
The deadly wildfires erupted on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Aug. 8 and have become the deadliest natural disaster in state history, officials said.
The blazes spread rapidly amid dry conditions from the ongoing drought there and powerful winds. The inferno burned thousands of residential and commercial buildings to the ground.
There were 12,000 people living in Lahaina at the time of the fires, according to local authorities. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green has said roughly 6,000 people have been displaced, as officials turn their attention to long-term solutions for housing.
There is not yet a plan to allow residents to return to the disaster area in Lahaina. It is currently restricted to authorized personnel only, according to Maui County officials, since the site may contain dangers such as “ash that may contain toxic, cancer-causing chemicals with debris including broken glass, exposed electrical wires, and other objects.”
“It takes about six months to a year to clear the debris from an event this size,” a FEMA representative told reporters at a press conference in Maui Monday. “So this will take some time. It has to be done appropriately, safely, culturally, respectfully, in a dignified way.”