By Jonathan Allen and Joseph Ax
KIHEI, Hawaii (Reuters) -Hawaii officials have released the names of 338 people still missing more than two weeks after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century swept through the resort town of Lahaina.
The list, compiled by the FBI, includes only people whose full names are known and who were reported missing by someone for whom authorities have verified contact information.
“The 388 names are a subset of a larger list,” Steven Merrill, a special agent from the FBI’s Honolulu field office, told a press conference in Maui on Friday. “I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we still have hundreds of other names where we still need more information.”
In the hours after the list was published, the FBI had received reports that about 100 people on the list were accounted for, which agents were working to confirm, Merrill said.
The death toll from the Aug. 8 fire on the island of Maui stands at 115, but officials have warned that figure is likely to rise. Search teams are still sifting through Lahaina’s blackened ruins, although officials said that process was nearly complete on Friday.
In releasing the names late on Thursday, authorities urged anyone who knows that someone on the list is safe, or has additional information that might help locate them, to contact the FBI.
Officials also encouraged relatives to submit the names of anyone else still missing and to provide DNA samples to assist in identifying remains. The number of families that have provided DNA is lower than authorities had hoped, making a difficult job even more challenging.
Officials had said earlier in the week that they had a running list of 1,000 to 1,100 people still unaccounted for. But they warned that the tally included some people with only a single name, some duplicate listings and some people whose gender was not clear.
As of Thursday afternoon, an additional 1,732 people initially reported missing had been found, officials said.
Many families have waited anxiously for news of missing loved ones since the fire tore through Lahaina, fueled by high winds from a passing hurricane and dry conditions. Survivors, some of whom jumped into the Pacific Ocean to escape the flames, have said they had little or no warning, prompting officials to launch reviews of the island’s emergency alert protocols.
The fire is the deadliest in the U.S. since a 1918 forest fire in Minnesota and Wisconsin killed more than 450.
On Thursday, Maui County sued Hawaiian Electric for failing to shut down its equipment despite warnings that the high winds could knock down power lines. The company said it was “very disappointed” that the county was suing while an investigation was still underway.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in Kihei and Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Julia Harte and Brad Brooks; Editing by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis)