| 19 June 2024, Wednesday |

Hawaii wildfires: More than 1,000 still missing as search continues

More than 1,000 people still remain unaccounted for after a wildfire ripped through Hawaiian town of Lahaina two weeks ago, officials said.

Authorities are now expected to make public a list of the missing in the coming days to try to narrow the search.

Some search teams combing through the rubble are finding only bones or fragments of bodies, which makes the task difficult.

The official death toll stands at 115.

The blazes destroyed most of the historic Maui town of Lahaina on 8 August and the fires are now considered the worst natural disaster in Hawaii state history.

At a press conference on Tuesday, FBI special agent Steven Merrill overseeing the search said: “We may not know in the end about everybody.”

“We’re considering everybody on that list until we can prove that they’re not on that list.”

Roughly 1,400 of the 2,500 people who were initially reported unaccounted for have been found. But the exact number of the missing has been a difficult figure for officials to tally.

“Every day the numbers will change,” Mr Merrill said. The latest missing estimate comes a day after Maui mayor Richard Bissen said the number was thought to be around 850.

Officials have been unable to estimate how many of the 1000-plus missing are presumed dead.

Search crews with cadaver dogs have been scouring the burn area for human remains. The ferocious heat from the fire, high enough to melt fire trucks, has made the task complicated as some of the search teams are finding only bones or fragments of bodies among piles of ash.

Authorities have been asking family members to provide DNA to help identify victims.

At least 104 DNA reference samples have been collected so far in an effort to “construct family trees, or pedigrees”, Julie French of DNA analysis company ANDE, told reporters.

The Lahaina fire burned roughly 3.39 sq miles (5.45 sq km) and destroyed at least 2,200 structures, according to the BBC’s partner CBS. The damage is estimated to have cost $6bn (£4.7bn).

Officials have publicly identified 13 people who died in the blaze. Among them are an avid musician, loving grandmothers and an inspiring father.