16 September 2023

Predicted death toll in Hawaii wildfires falls to 97

16 September 2023

Authorities say the number of deaths in August’s wildfire in Hawaii has fallen to at least 97.

Officials had put the figure from the fires in Maui at 115, but that has been reduced to 97 after testing showed multiple DNA samples had been used from some of the victims.

Maui Police chief John Pelletier said 74 of the victims had been identified and confirmed the number of missing people had fallen from 41 to 31.

“For the very first time… we legitimately have a chance to identify every single person we lost and to reunite them with their family,” he said.

“And so in the midst of all this tragedy, there’s a little ray of hope right there and so that really is incredible.”

John Byrd, laboratory director with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, said on Friday the number of dead should be considered a minimum.

He said the lower tally was the “normal and natural” progression of the long-term forensics investigation.

Determining the death toll from the August 8 wildfire in Lahaina – the deadliest in the US for more than a century – has been especially complicated because of the damage caused by the fire and the chaos as people tried to escape, officials said. In some cases, animal remains were inadvertently collected along with human remains.

Maui County physician’s coroner Dr Jeremy Stuelpnagel said: “When the fire broke out, people ran together, they huddled together. They’re holding each other in those moments. Some of them were even holding pets.”

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