Lahaina search ‘almost completely’ wrapped up, number of fatalities unclear

Search and recovery efforts on Maui have “almost completely” wrapped up, but the number of fatalities from the devastating wildfires remains unclear as authorities attempt to account for the missing.

“We have wrapped up almost completely the search and recovery mission and [are] moving into the next phase,” Darryl Oliveira, the interim head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

While urban search and rescue teams have “completed 100 percent of their area,” some search activity is continuing off the coast of Lahaina, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said.

The FBI, which is searching 200 yards out along a four-mile section of the coastline, has not yet found any human remains, the police chief noted.

The death toll from the fires currently stands at 115. However, as of last week, 388 people remained unaccounted for, according to a credible list compiled by the FBI.

Pelletier said an updated list would be released on Friday.

The Maui Police Department has also received 110 missing persons reports, more than 50 of which remain open, the police chief said.

“Every effort is being taken to ensure that the search is complete,” Pelletier said at Tuesday’s press conference, later adding, “In case there was a chance that something needs to be further looked at, we’ve got archeologists.”

“We’re gonna make sure that we can do that so, again, we do this the right way,” he said.

As search efforts wrap up, Oliveira explained that the next phase of the recovery will be the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) removal of hazardous waste. 

“That piece is critical to ensuring the safe access for everyone else going forward,” Oliveira said, adding, “We really want to make sure that when we let people in it is safe.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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