Hawaii revises down wildfire death toll

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The number of people thought to have died in the fast-moving wildfire that tore through part of Hawaii last month dropped Friday, as authorities revised their figures.

The state’s governor, Josh Green, said scientists sorting through remains now believed that 97 people had perished in Lahaina, down from a previous official toll of 115.

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“That number dropped a little bit because the Department of Defense and all of their physical anthropologists were able to help us discern better who was in cars or in houses,” Green said in a Facebook video.

“So thank God, fewer people have passed away.”

Green gave no details on the confusion, but the aftermath of large-scale disasters often sees repeated revisions of figures.

The commingling of remains was a particular issue in Lahaina, with some victims believed to have fled with other people or with pets.

Green said the number of people whose whereabouts were unconfirmed -- those who have been reported missing and not found among the dead or confirmed safe -- now stood at 31.

“So we get these numbers more and more refined, but fewer people have been lost,” he said.

The August 8 blaze levelled the historic royal seat of Lahaina with flames that appeared to have erupted from a downed power line as fierce winds whipped the archipelago. The fire produced such intense heat that it melted metal and left mounds of ash where houses once stood.

Authorities have come in for criticism over their handling of the disaster, with locals saying they were given no warning of the impending fire.

The head of Maui’s emergency management agency resigned after criticism that warning sirens were not sounded.

There has also been anger over the recovery effort, with officials lashed over what some said was a slow response to finding places to live for the thousands of people left homeless in the tragedy.

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