Authorities in Hawaii released a list late on Thursday naming 388 people who are still unaccounted for in the aftermath of the deadliest wildfires in America in more than a century, which killed at least 115 people.
The fires devastated the coastal town of Lahaina on the island of Maui, as well as other areas of the island, more than two weeks ago. Search-and-rescue teams are still sifting through the last patches of ash and rubble looking for human remains.
In publicizing the names, the authorities hope to narrow the tally of the missing. In a statement, Maui’s police chief, John Pelletier, asked anyone who survived the fire to come forward and remove their name from the list. Officials had said earlier on Tuesday that 1,000 to 1,100 people remained unaccounted for.
The list released on Thursday, Mr. Pelletier said, includes anyone for whom officials have a first and last name and contact information for the person who reported them missing.
Officials have been bracing the public for the likelihood that the number of confirmed dead from the fires — which stands at 115 — will rise substantially.
“We also know that once those names come out, it can and will cause pain for folks whose loved ones are listed,” Mr. Pelletier said. “This is not an easy thing to do, but we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make this investigation as complete and thorough as possible.”
The decision to release the names of the missing came after F.B.I. officials, along with Maui Police, the Red Cross and other agencies, examined various lists compiled by shelters, cross referencing and combining them into one tally. Along the way, they identified many survivors and removed their names.
The final toll from the fire, which began in the grassy hillsides above Lahaina and, fueled by high winds, raced through the center of town to the Pacific Ocean, will probably not be known for months. Many people died near Front Street in Lahaina, which runs along the sea wall, in their cars or in the ocean. Many were trapped in traffic trying to escape the fire, with the surrounding roads blocked by downed power lines. Some older residents died at a senior living center.
So far, the authorities have released the names of 35 people who are confirmed dead and have been identified through DNA testing. Four-fifths of them — 28 people — were older than 60. On Thursday, the first child, a 7-year-old, was added to the list of confirmed deaths.
Countless families have endured an agonizing wait for news of loved ones who are unaccounted for. In the absence of official word, many have held out hope, traversing Maui clutching missing posters, placing them in post offices, hotels, parks and shelters.
Many relatives of the missing are have been reluctant to submit DNA samples for comparison with human remains recovered from the rubble of Lahaina. On Tuesday, the authorities said they had received only 104 samples from family members, and they renewed urgent pleas for people to submit DNA, promising that the information will not be used for anything other than identifying the dead of Lahaina, and will not be entered into any other government databases.
“We need family members to come forward and donate their samples so that we can compare them to these DNA profiles we’ve already generated from remains,” Julie French, senior vice president of ANDE, a Colorado-based company that is using rapid DNA technology to identify remains in Lahaina, told reporters this week. “This is a critical step.”
Veronica Mendoza Jachowski, the executive director of Lahaina Roots Reborn, a social services organization that was formed in the aftermath of the fire, said many immigrants who may have lost someone in the fire have been worried about how their DNA would be used.
“‘Is it OK for me to go? Is it safe to go?’” she said she was asked. “At first we didn’t have a clear answer, but now we have the assurance.”
Some immigrants had been living in Lahaina by themselves, Ms. Mendoza Jachowski said, and their families are in faraway places like Mexico or the Phillipines. Lahaina Roots Reborn, she said, has been trying to arrange for relatives abroad to give DNA samples.
By releasing the names of the missing, Maui is following the example of what authorities did in Northern California after the Camp Fire in 2018. Initially, the list of the missing from that fire, which consumed the town of Paradise in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, reached 1,300, but was slowly trimmed following the release of the list. The final death toll was 85 people.
Until the blaze that decimated Lahaina, the Camp Fire was the deadliest wildfire in the United States since 1918, when a forest fire in Minnesota killed hundreds of people.