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People missing following Maui wildfires dropped to 66, says governor

HONOLULU (AP) – One month after the deadliest United States (US) wildfire in more than a century levelled the historic town of Lahaina, Hawaii Governor Josh Green said the number of missing has dropped to 66, the confirmed death toll remains at 115 and authorities will soon escort residents on visits to their property.

Tens of millions of dollars in aid will make its way to families and businesses as they recover, Green said, and beginning October 8, travel restrictions will end and West Maui will reopen to visitors.

“If we support Maui’s economy and keep our people employed, they will heal faster and continue to afford to live on Maui,” Green said.

Donations from around the world have poured in to the American Red Cross, the Hawaiii Community Foundation, the Maui United Way and other organisations, Green said, and he has authorised USD100 million from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programme to support what others donate, magnifying the power of their generosity.

The government is also making USD25 million available to help businesses survive, distributed in grants of USD10,000 to USD20,000, he said.

Charred remains of homes following the wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii. PHOTO: AP

The August 8 fire started in the hills above the historic oceanfront town.

Within hours it spread through single-family homes and apartment buildings, quaint city streets, art galleries and restaurants, destroying more than 2,000 structures.

Dozens of people fled to the ocean seeking refuge from the flames.

The blaze is estimated to have caused USD5.5 billion in damage. The new tally of 66 people still missing represents a significant drop from a week earlier, when authorities said 385 remained unaccounted for.

So far, Maui police have released the names of 55 of the dead. Of those, 22 were in their 70s, with another 13 in their 60s. There was one listed victim under the age of 10.

With about half the deceased still unidentified, Green said he expected there to be  significant overlap between the names on the missing list and remains that have already been recovered.

Therefore, he said, he did not expect the death toll to rise considerably.”We’re starting to see that the universe of 115 fatalities is about where we are,” Green said.