Lawsuits are piling up in court. Businesses across Maui are worried about losing the tourism industry. And there are still a lot of people missing.
HONOLULU — Almost a month later America’s deadliest wildfire In more than a century that has killed at least 115 people, Maui authorities are working through a list of missing people that has grown almost rapidly. names have been deleted.
Lawsuits pile up went to court for liability to hell and businesses on the island are worried about losing the tourism industry.
Government officials from Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen arrive President Joe Biden has pledged his supportand thousands of people were put into hotels and other places while waiting for permits to visit and inspect the homes where they used to live.
Here’s what to know about how recovery in Lahaina is going after the August 8 disaster:
HOW MANY PEOPLE DIED?
The officially confirmed number is 115a number unchanged since Aug. 21. But there are still many other names on the list of those considered missing and it’s unclear if the death toll has increased – or if we’re really know how not many people were killed.
Maui County Sheriff John Pelletier has repeatedly pleaded for patience as authorities try to determine who is missing, who has been found and who is dead.
Officials also sometimes obscure the situation. Police on August 24 released a “reliable” list compiled by the FBI of 388 unidentified people whose names authorities have had their first and last names and contact numbers. Report them missing.
Many of them or their relatives came to report to say they were safe, resulting in the removal of 245 names last Friday. Several others are believed to have died in the fire, but their remains have yet to be identified.
Governor Josh Green said the number of missing people would drop to double digits with Friday’s update, but as police released it, 263 new names had been added, bringing the total to 385.
Green weekend posted a video on Xformerly known as Twitter, is seeking clarification, saying, “The official number is 385 … but only 41 – 41 investigations are ongoing after people file missing person reports.”
WHO WILL TAKE RESPONSIBILITY?
Formal investigations will aim to determine the cause of the fire and look at how officials handled the fire. But about a dozen lawsuits have been filed blaming the Hawaii Electric Company, the for-profit, investor-owned company that serves 95 percent of the state’s electricity customers.
Among the lawsuits was a case of Maui . County alleging the utility company negligently failed to turn off the power despite high winds and dry conditions.
Hawaii Electric said in a statement that it is “disappointed that the County of Maui has chosen this litigation route while the investigation is still ongoing.”
Other lawsuits come from residents who have lost their homes. On Monday, the father of a 57-year-old woman who died trying to escape a fire filed a lawsuit against defendants including Maui County, the state and Hawaiian Electric.
County representatives did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment on that complaint. The state said it was reviewing it and Hawaiian Electric declined to comment.
A law firm that filed a class-action lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric and Maui County on Tuesday asked the court to add more telecommunications companies, private landowners and the state to the original lawsuit.
Lawyers representing Lahaina residents and business owners argued that cable and telephone companies overloaded and destabilized some power poles, causing high winds to break, contributing to the fires.
HOW DOES GOVERNMENT HELP PEOPLE?
Mostly immediately disaster relief aid has been organized by community members, such as a supply distribution center that operates out of the Hawaiian housing community in Lahaina, where most of the homes exist.
Hawaiian U.S. Senator Brian Schatz said in remarks Tuesday in the Senate that federal support must continue.
“Our responsibility in Congress is to provide relief – in any way we can, as long as people need it,” he said.
According to the county, as of Monday night, 5,852 people were staying at 24 hotels around Maui as temporary shelters.
At the hotels, they receive American Red Cross services including meals, mental health support, and financial assistance.
Schatz said more than 1,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency employees were in Maui to help survivors.
FEMA will also need to complete “one of the most complex debris removal operations in its history,” he said, which could take up to a year and cost up to a billion dollars.
Governor Green said in a social media video Monday that the US Environmental Protection Agency has cleared more than 200 parcels.
“This is important because we can start calling people back to inspect their land and close soon,” he said.
Green said FEMA has supported up to $19.4 million.
Help also comes from the rich and famous: Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson has committed $10 million to make direct payments to people in Maui who are unable to return home through a new fund it announced last week.
SHOULD TOURISM VISIT MAUI?
Officials said last week that visitor numbers to the island had dropped 70 percent since August 9, the day after Lahaina burned. Maui relies heavily on tourism for jobs and the economy is reeling.
Restaurants and historic sites in Lahaina, once a tourist attraction, are now charred ruins. Large resort hotels further down the west coast of Maui were not affected but are currently housing displaced residents.
Authorities are encouraging tourists to visit the island and support the economy, but are asking them to avoid western Maui and instead stay in other areas such as Kihei and Wailea.
Celebrities like native Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa and singer Aerosmith and Host Maui Steven Tyler are also among those calling for people to visit.
“Everything is beautiful, except we have to go there and make it more beautiful, okay?” Tyler said during a concert weekend in Philadelphia.
Johnson reports from Seattle.