Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said Thursday that the search of missing people following the devastating fires on Maui earlier this month was nearly complete. Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Foster/U.S. Army National Guard/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said the water search for hundreds of people listed as missing more than 20 days after wildfires destroyed the historic Maui island town of Lahaina is near completion and that they expect the number of those unaccounted for to drop to double digits.
Since the wildfire tore through Maui's Lahaina on Aug. 8, officials have said that 388 people remain missing.
On Thursday, Green in a brief video update said that that may change on Friday.
"We're heartsick but we're still seeing the number of unaccounted for individuals drop," he said. "We're going to get a big update tomorrow and pending that update, we think the number's dropped down into the double digits, so thank God."
Green on Tuesday had announced that the land search for victims had ended, and the effort would shift to the ocean where many sought refuge from the flames.
On Thursday, he said "they've basically finished the search with the exception of a little bit of the water area."
The death toll still stands at 115, though officials are working to confirm the identities of bodies recovered.
The Maui Police Department on Thursday confirmed in a statement that another victim has been identified and their next of kin has been notified, lifting the total to 49.
Another six victims have been identified but the family has either not been notified of been unable to be located.
On Friday, Hawaii will hold a daylong vigil that Maui County said will be centered on "healing and cleansing" following the devastating fires.
"Coming together like this helps to ease the burden and pain, and we become a stronger community," Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said in a statement. "In this Day of Prayer, as we embrace our families, trust in our faith and look to a future that calls upon our care for one another, we find the strength to carry on."
According to the county, the vigil is to be rooted in native Hawaiian practices and includes leaders from diverse faiths. It is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. with the start of a native Hawaiian sunrise ceremony, and will be streamed online.
It'll begin at 6 a.m. with the start of a native Hawaiian sunriss ceremony