(MAUI, Hawaii) -- The rebuilding process has begun across Maui following the devastating wildfires that killed 97 people and displaced thousands more.
The number of those who remain unaccounted for in the weeks since the disaster totals 31, down from an original count of 66, according to authorities.
Here is the latest news out of Maui as officials and residents alike move toward recovery following the tragedy.
Information on reentry into West Maui and Lahaina, financial and housing assistance and more can be found on Maui County's www.MauiRecovers.org informational site.
The return of residents
Officials are expected to announce the first zones that residents will be allowed to reenter after the Environmental Protection Agency clears properties of hazardous materials.
Residents and property owners in those zones will be contacted to acquire passes for reentry, a process that will begin on Sept. 22, according to Maui officials. Reentry is expected to begin Sept. 25 "with residents escorted to the properties and provided personal protective equipment during the first two visits," they said.
"I cannot stress the importance of supporting people going through this experience,” said Darryl Oliveira, interim administrator of the Maui Emergency Management Agency. "We also want to make sure they’re safe."
Currently, the burn area is restricted to authorized personnel as federal agencies remove potentially dangerous ash and other debris. This could take months, officials have said, adding that this is "a coordinated effort to develop a plan for the safe return of residents."
Anyone visiting properties in the burn area is urged to use Personal Protective Equipment for their safety. Visitors are urged by officials to check out bit.ly/WestMauiCaution to learn more about protective measures.
Residents of Lahaina, Kula and the surrounding areas should only use bottled water or potable water provided by tankers. The Department of Water Supply urges those on the island to check out the Water Advisory map for updates about drinking water quality: bit.ly/mauiwateradvisory.
West Maui could reopen on Oct. 8 to tourists, according to Hawaii Gov. Josh Green.
The death toll
The death toll now stands at 97.
Of the deceased, 69 have been identified. Eight others have been identified but authorities are in the process of contacting family members.
Fifty-six people remain unidentified.
Those who are unaccounted for
One hundred percent of the land area has been searched.
MPD urges those who have loved ones who are still missing to file a report by contacting the Maui Police Department at 808-244-6400 or emailing [email protected].
Those reporting an unaccounted for person must be prepared to give the first and last name of the individual, their age, their last known location and last known physical place of residence.
Those who are not on Maui but are the immediate family member of a missing person connected to the Maui wildfires, and wish to provide a DNA sample to assist in the investigation, call the FBI Honolulu Division at (808) 566-4300 or email [email protected].
Scam calls claiming to be from "DNA Services" should be reported to Maui Police Department's non-emergency number at (808) 244-6400.
The Upcountry fire is 90% contained and has affected an estimated 1,081 acres.
The Kula fire is 96% contained and has affected an estimated 202 acres.
The Lahaina fire is 100% contained and has affected an estimated 2,170 acres.
Officials say that containment indicates what percentage of the fire perimeter has been enclosed by a control line. This reflects the opportunity for the fire to spread beyond its original border into new areas, according to Maui County officials.
The fires do not pose a threat, according to the Maui Fire Department.
The return of students
Officials have said they expect to start up schools right after the fall break if the air quality, water quality and soil quality are safe for students and staff.
Roughly 3,000 students from the four Lahaina public schools have been displaced in the fires.
Students from the unusable King Kamehameha III Elementary School will share a campus with the other local elementary school.
The Maui Disaster Support Call Center, launched by state and local officials, will act as a central assistance hub to inform community members in the aftermath of the Maui wildfires. The call center can be reached at (808) 727-1550 between 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time.
Similarly, an online centralized hub of resources and updated information can be found at mauinuistrong.info. There, people can find out how to donate, volunteer, or receive services in connection with the tragedy.
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