By: Vivek J
September 4 2023
Maui county officials have categorically denied reports of dead bodies washing ashore in Lanai and asked people not to share such misinformation.
A massive fire engulfed the island of Lahania in Maui County in Hawaii on August 8 and went on to become one of the deadliest wildfire disasters in the United States. The fire that took days to put off resulted in over a hundred deaths while hundreds of people remain unaccounted for.
What is the claim?
In the wake of this tragedy, several unrelated images, videos, and bizarre claims about the fires flooded social media platforms. Recently, several social media users have claimed that hundreds of dead bodies washed ashore in Lanai, a nearby island, following the Lahania fires in Hawaii. In a video shared on Facebook, a person claims “around 183 dead bodies washed ashore in Lanai.” Archives of such posts can be seen here, and here.
Screenshot of the video claiming that hundreds of bodies washed ashore on Lanai. (Source: YouTube/Cinema Shogun)
However, the claim made in the video is not true.
What we found
According to the latest press statement released by Maui County on August 31, 115 people were confirmed dead in the aftermath of the fire, and 49 of these individuals were identified. The County also noted that the FBI has set up a command post and listed the names of the missing individuals on a portal dedicated to finding the missing people in Lahaina.
Upon looking up the County’s social media accounts for any report on dead bodies washing ashore on Lanai, we came across a Facebook post dated August 26 with clarification on several pieces of misinformation related to the Lahaina fires. One such clarification read, “NO! There have been no confirmed reports of deceased washing up on Lanai shores. Please be careful not to share misinformation.
Screenshot of Maui County's clarification on bodies washing ashore. (Source: Facebook/County of Maui)
The same clarification statements can also be found on Maui County’s Instagram page.
There have been multiple reports since the fires about Lahaina residents jumping into the ocean to escape the fires. A local news outlet KOHN2 has reported a survivor’s account dated August 9, on how the person jumped into the ocean and was later rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.
According to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser report, the Coast Guard has rescued 17 people from the ocean and quoted the agency as stating that an estimated 100 people had jumped into the water. The Maui County authorities got some of them out of the water while others got out themselves, noted the Star-Advertiser.
There have been no confirmed reports from the Coast Guard or the Maui County officials about any dead bodies washing ashore in Lanai.
Maui County officials have dismissed claims of hundreds of bodies washing ashore on Lanai and noted that such claims were false. According to the official figures, over 300 people are still unaccounted for, while 115 were confirmed dead. However, there have been no reports of hundreds of dead bodies related to the Lahaina fires washing ashore on any Hawaiian island.