But as many as 80 more may still be unaccounted for as Maui police try to verify reports.

The FBI says that 66 people are still potentially unaccounted from the deadly wildfires last month on Maui. The death toll remains 115.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said Friday that the figure is based on calls and emails the bureau has received “and in many cases they only have names of these individuals on a list and no other information.”

The number was initially over 3,000 but had dropped to 385 as of last week and was reduced even further as people’s whereabouts were determined.

The Maui Police Department, which has been working with the FBI, said Friday there are an additional 80 people who had been on the larger list that are still unaccounted for and the department is working to vet and verify the credibility that they are still missing.

The governor spoke at a press conference at the Hawaii State Capitol on the one-month anniversary of the deadly fires that nearly destroyed Lahaina but also cropped up on other parts of Maui and Hawaii island.

Gov. Josh Green and Attorney General Anne Lopez at a press conference Friday marking the one-month anniversary of the Lahaina fires. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

The American Red Cross, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have relocated over 7,500 displaced survivors from shelters to 29 hotels and hundreds of Airbnbs. Approximately 15,931 people have filed for FEMA relief.

Green said those accommodations — which include meals, casework services, financial recovery resources and other disaster relief assistance — will continue. But long term, he said, hotels “can’t be our long-term solution to housing in West Maui.”

An agreement with the Red Cross will allow the housing of people displaced by the fire for a minimum of 36 weeks. The governor said his administration is pursuing relationships with large numbers of homeowners who have historically used their properties as short-term rentals to convert them into long-term rentals to accommodate displaced residents.

FEMA will also continue to assist with direct leases and rental assistance grants to ensure that people have housing “well into 2025.”

The governor said there are efforts to contract with three to five hotels to lease the entire properties for long-term recovery, too. And a smaller number of transitional, temporary housing units — kauhale communities — will be built to aid those not housed in rentals or hotels.

Green repeated some news from earlier this week, including the goal of lifting all travel restrictions to Lahaina by Oct. 8 (he cautioned, however, that the ash “is quite toxic, so we need to be careful”) and making available $25 million in the form of bridge grants to help Maui businesses.

He reiterated his view that Lahaina will be rebuilt for the people of Lahaina, that the rest of the state is open for tourism and that predatory parties seeking to exploit the situation in Lahaina would be dealt with by authorities.

Attorney General Anne Lopez said that there are ongoing investigations and that her office is receiving tips and complaints — including about robocalls — on a daily basis.

Recovery Fund Proposed

The governor has also authorized $100 million dollars from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund to support what others donate, “magnifying the power of their generosity.”

One other new item: Green has ordered his staff to explore the possibility of forming a recovery fund for those that have been impacted.

“This is intended to eliminate the need for those who have been affected by the fire to go through years of costly and painful litigation, with eventual recovery uncertain,” he said.

Gov. Josh Green provides an update on the Lahaina fires and other issues during a press conference Friday at the State Capitol. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

The governor asked “in the spirit of aloha” for local attorneys to represent Maui survivors on a “pro bono basis or at a greatly reduced rate, so survivors can receive more of the settlements they deserve, and I am calling on our local legal and business leaders to support this effort.”

The press conference ran for well over an hour, but reporters were asked to focus first on Lahaina before asking other questions. That included the topic of the resignation Thursday of his chief housing officer, Nani Medeiros, who has been harassed by some people including former mixed martial arts champion BJ Penn.

A spokeswoman for the governor said that, during the press conference, Penn was in the reception room of the governor’s fifth floor office, which is generally open to the public. Security was also on hand. Penn was not allowed into the press conference.

Green defended Medeiros, who will leave her post in one month, and decried the vocal critics of her work. He said he was unsure whether he would appoint a new housing czar but said that Hakim Ouansafi, the executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, would play an enhanced role. Ouansafi was in the fifth floor offices but was not part of the press conference.

Green said he plans to extend his emergency proclamation on housing, which expires next week, and said the work of the Build Beyond Barriers Working Group that Medeiros leads will continue. The Lahaina crisis aside, the governor said Hawaii still desperately needs 50,000 more housing units.

But the Lahaina fires will continue to be the dominant issue for the state in the months and years to come. He said he expected the Hawaii Legislature to make the response to the fires the top priority when the new session begins in January, especially finding ways to make sure such a disaster does not happen again.

On Thursday House Speaker Scott Saiki identified wildfire prevention as the lead focus of the formation of six working groups to address Lahaina.

“It’s going to be a long process for us to rebuild and heal, and we are grateful for the love and support coming to Maui from around the country and around the world,” Green concluded. “Please keep Maui in your hearts and your prayers as we start our long road to recovery.”

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

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