Sept. 16 (UPI) — The death toll from the wildfires that devastated Maui last month has dropped from 115 to 97 after DNA tests, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said Friday.
“The number dropped a little bit because the Department of Defense and all of their physical anthropologists were able to help us discern better who was in cars or houses,” Green said in a video posted to Twitter. “So thank God, fewer people have passed away.”
So far, 74 of the 97 dead have been officially identified, according to Hawaii News Now.
Green said 31 reports of missing persons are still open and not all of the remains found have been identified. That number is down from 66 described as missing at the end of last week.
Additionally, 7,415 people who lost their homes in the fire are housed in hotel rooms in Hawaii while more than 1,100 are housed in Airbnb locations. He said that officials are trying to move those affected into long-term rentals.
“If you have a long-term rental and you’d like to participate, contact us. We’d like to rent that for 18 months. We want everyone to get housing for a long time as we rebuild,” Green said. “Mahalo for understanding and mahalo for your generosity.”
Earlier this month, Green said that the search for missing people was nearing completion after the wildfire tore through Maui on Aug. 8.
The Lahaina fire, the largest of three named fires that tore through Maui, has reached 100% containment after burning through 2,170 acres, according to Maui officials on Saturday. Containment levels have stayed more or less the same in recent days.
The other two wildfires, Kula and Olinda, are both more than 90% contained. The Olinda fire has burned through 1,081 acres while the Kula fire has burned through just 202 acres.
Property owners will be able to begin acquiring passes for reentry to certain zones in the Maui Disaster Area next Friday after the area is cleared of hazardous materials by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“At this time, there is no list allowing residents to return to the disaster area in Lahaina. Currently, the disaster area is restricted to authorized personnel only,” officials said.
“Dangers include ash that may contain toxic, cancer-causing chemicals with debris including broken glass, exposed electrical wire, and other objects. Unstable structures may contain hazardous materials and could collapse, causing injury.”