As authorities updated their estimates on Friday, the number of people initially believed to have perished in the swiftly spreading wildfire that tore across part of Hawaii last month decreased.
Josh Green, the governor of the state, reported that 97 fatalities in Lahaina were now thought to have occurred, down from the previous official death toll of 115.
“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 did not elaborate on the discrepancy, although data are frequently revised repeatedly in the wake of major catastrophes.
In Lahaina, the mixing of remains was a particular problem because some victims were thought to have escaped with other people or with animals.
Green claimed that 31 people had been reported missing but whose locations had not yet been determined to be safe or found among the deceased.
“So we get these numbers more and more refined, but fewer people have been lost,” he said.
Lahaina, Hawaii’s old royal capital, was destroyed by a fire on August 8 that looked to have broken out from a downed power line as violent winds tore through the archipelago. There were mounds of ash where houses formerly stood, and the fire’s extreme heat melted metal.
Locals claim that authorities failed to notify them of the imminent fire, which has led to criticism of how they handled the incident.
Following complaints that the warning sirens were not heard, the director of Maui’s emergency management department resigned.
There has also been resentment directed at the recovery effort, with officials criticized for what some perceived as a tardy effort to house the thousands of victims of the tragedy.