There has not been a centralized effort to account for how many of the remaining missing people were visitors to Maui.

A 72-year-old woman from California has been confirmed to have died during the Lahaina wildfire, but most of the tourists who were in the area that day are believed to have been safely evacuated, officials say.

An estimated 15,000 tourists were in West Maui, which includes Lahaina, when the fire began spreading rapidly on Aug. 8, according to Lisa Paulson, executive director of the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association.

She said the emergency operations center sent buses to evacuate guests from the Kaanapali and Kapalua areas, two other popular tourist destinations that sit north of Lahaina.

It is still unclear how many of the visitors to West Maui during the wildfires were successfully evacuated. Many ended up in Honolulu, with services provided at the Hawaii Convention Center. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

However, the number of visitors who may be among the hundreds of people who remain unaccounted for is unknown.

Paulson said her organization has not received any calls about missing tourists. The difficulty in determining any information on visitors is indicative of the ad hoc nature of the search and recovery process.

The death toll from the fire stood at 115 on Wednesday, but officials have struggled to confirm how many people are still missing. The FBI said Tuesday that it has compiled a list with about 1,100 names so far, but it was having problems verifying information and cautioned that number would fluctuate.

The responsibility for determining how many of those people may be tourists has been left to a patchwork of interested parties including friends and family, and consulates in the case of missing international visitors.

On Tuesday, Maui County confirmed that 72-year-old Theresa Cook, who was visiting the island from Pollock Pines, California, had died in the blaze.

Cook had been staying at the Best Western Pioneer Inn, which was built in 1901, and had planned to leave Lahaina the next day, according to a now-deleted Facebook post from her daughter that was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. She fled the hotel on foot and was not heard from again.

The county did not respond to questions about how Cook was identified or who is in charge of tracking missing tourists.

The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii is typically a resource for visitors in crisis. It provides services such as translation assistance, funeral arrangements and hotel accommodations. But President Jessica Lani Rich said the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross have been responsible for tracking down missing people, including visitors.

The Red Cross regional communications director Mandy McMahon said the organization did not have information on the number of reunification requests made by nonresidents. FEMA did not respond to a request for comment on missing visitors.

Consulates can be a valuable intermediary for families of missing international visitors, but they’re not a cohesive source of information.

Mikio Izawa, deputy consulate-general of the Japanese Consulate, said he did not have any information on missing tourists at this time.

The Brazilian Consulate initially had a list of 16 people missing following the wildfires, but 14 have been found, honorary consul Eric Crispin said, adding that some connected with family while others were found in shelters or hotels.

For the remaining two missing Brazilians, the consulate will be “checking with the various agencies and various lists,” he said.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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