Within a day of Hawaiian authorities releasing the names of 388 people unaccounted for in the wake of deadly wildfires on Maui, more than 100 of them or their relatives came forward to report their safety, according to the FBI.
The agency is examining the provided information and working to remove the names from the list.
“We’re very thankful for the people who have reached out by phone or email,” Steven Merrill, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Honolulu, said at a news conference.
“As we get someone off of a list, this has enabled us to devote more resources to those who are still on the list.”
Several individuals on the list confirmed to the Associated Press earlier in the day that they were alive and well, with a few also expressing confusion or frustration at being included.
At least two other victims of the fire are known to have perished but have not yet been positively identified as fatalities in the official tally, which currently stands at 115.
One former resident of Lahaina, the historic seaside community destroyed by the fire, was included on the list, despite having moved away three years prior.
Arturo Gonzalez Hernandez stated that he called the FBI on Friday to give his name and date of birth. An inaccurate list could cause unnecessary stress, he said.
“Some people are still struggling with the impact of so many people dying,” Gonzalez said.
The 388 names were a portion of a larger list of up to 1,100 reported missing individuals, which the FBI stated earlier this week it was working to validate.
Maui County stated the newly published list included those for whom it had first and last names as well as verified contact information for the person who reported them missing.
“Once those names come out, it can and will cause pain for folks whose loved ones are listed,” police chief John Pelletier said in a statement late on Thursday.
“This is not an easy thing to do, but we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make this investigation as complete and thorough as possible.”
Anyone who knew someone on the list was asked to contact authorities.
Heidi Mazur, of Lahaina, said she was frustrated to be on the unaccounted-for list when she has been active on Facebook and started an online fundraiser after the fire.
“They will find me in a New York minute if I don’t pay my car registration or taxes, but they can’t seem to locate me in a disaster here in Lahaina!” she said via Facebook Messenger.
Community’s Determined Response: Ongoing Search for Remains in Fire-Affected Areas
According to officials, as of Thursday afternoon, an additional 1,732 people who had gone missing had been found safe.
Crews have been searching for remains among the ashes of burned-out businesses and multi-story residential structures.
The search will take weeks, with many of the last structures posing complex challenges, according to army Col David Fielder, deputy commander of the joint taskforce responding to the wildfires, at a news conference on Friday.
Dozens of searchers have also been combing a 6.4km (four-mile) stretch of water for signs of anyone who may have died after scaling a seawall to flee the flames and black smoke engulfing the town.
Earlier this week, officials pleaded with relatives of those still missing to come forward and provide DNA samples to aid in identifying remains, promising that the samples would not be entered into law enforcement databases or used in any other way.
At the time, DNA samples had only been collected from 104 families, a number that officials deemed alarmingly low.
Maui prosecuting attorney Andrew Martin, who heads the family assistance center, said that while donations of samples have increased slightly since then, “we are still not where we want to be.”
Source: The Guardian