© 2023 Blaze Media LLC. All rights reserved.
Maui's wildfire death toll officially 114, but locals running out of body bags reckon it's closer to 500, with thousands still missing
Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images

Maui's wildfire death toll officially 114, but locals running out of body bags reckon it's closer to 500, with thousands still missing

The County of Maui and the Maui Police Department confirmed Sunday that at least 114 people were dead as a result of the Hawaii wildfires that torched thousands of acres and reduced much of the historic town of Lahaina to ash.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier indicated early last week that rescuers accompanied by scores of cadaver dogs were working their way through the aftermath, over 85% of which had been covered by Sunday, according to Hawaii Gov. Josh Green.

Locals, whose morgues have reportedly run out of body bags, indicated that the actual number of deaths is the neighborhood of 500.

Allisen Medina told the Daily Mail, "I know there are at least 480 dead here in Maui, and I don't understand why they're [the authorities] not saying that. Maybe it's to do with DNA or something."

Authorities are encouraging people to provide DNA samples to help identify victims, reported Axios.

The FBI announced Friday it would be opening a DNA matching site to speed up the process.

"I do know they ran out of body bags by the first or second night and had to ship some in from the mainland," added Medina.

Medina criticized the Biden administration's relief effort, saying, "100 percent not enough is being done, so people are doing it themselves. The government, relief organizations — they're not doing anything."

"We're only 100 miles from Oahu, which has several military bases. Why is the response so lacking? Why are they doing so little? Why is nothing else being done?" asked Medina, who has been traveling to and from Lahaina over the past two weeks, helping burned-out residents.

The 24-year-old also took aim at the apparent failure of some officials, particularly Herman Andaya, the administrator of the Maui Emergency Management Agency who resigned Thursday despite refusing to admit fault.

While she did not mention Andaya by name, Medina blasted his decision not to sound warning sirens.

A part-time morgue worker similarly suggested that around 480 people had already been confirmed dead, telling Southwest flight attendant Sarah Trost that authorities had only searched 13% of Lahaina as of last week, where he personally "found so many children, children and moms holding each other. Infants, toddlers, the unimaginable. Husbands and wives, whole entire [families] in a room just huddling together, burning to death."

The morgue worker further claimed, "It's all bones. ... They have no more room on the island in the morgue, so they're shipping in containers to hold those body bags."

Gov. Green told CBS News Sunday there were still an estimated 1,050 people unaccounted for, noting both that search and recovery efforts in the ruins of larger buildings could "take weeks" and that "the remains of those who died, in some cases, may be impossible to recover" on account of the high temperatures at which the fires burned.

NBC News reported that an accurate count could take months or even years according to researchers and forensic anthropologists.

"The death toll number is always provisional, in a way," said Lynn Goldman, an epidemiologist and the dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. "I assume people won't stop trying to find remains and the work will take a very, very long time."

Goldman added, "It's going to be challenging to account for all the direct deaths, whether it was people who were burned or people who jumped into the ocean and drowned or people who died of smoke inhalation."

Although the official number is less than one-quarter of that counted by the morgue worker, Medina, and others, Pelletier underscored that it is already "unprecedented."

"No one has ever seen this that is alive today. Not this size, not this number, not this volume — and we're not done," said the Maui police chief.

While officials continue to tabulate how many souls perished in the blazes, some survivors are trying to establish precisely who or what set Maui up to burn.

Numerous lawsuits allege that Hawaiian Electric, which serves 95% of the state's 1.4 million residents, helped set the stage for the wildfires.

TheBlaze previously detailed a report claiming Hawaiian Electric had prioritized its shift to 100% renewable energy — as mandated by Democratic lawmakers — over the clearing of flammable vegetation and the maintenance of its power lines.

Like Blaze News? Bypass the censors, sign up for our newsletters, and get stories like this direct to your inbox. Sign up here!

Want to leave a tip?

We answer to you. Help keep our content free of advertisers and big tech censorship by leaving a tip today.
Want to join the conversation?
Already a subscriber?