Family of veteran missing in devastating Maui wildfires clings to hope he escaped the blaze

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The family of a Korean War veteran is desperately searching for him after losing contact with him during the devastating wildfires in Hawaii. Maui County, where the largest blaze is still raging, has confirmed at least 67 fatalities. More than 1,000 people are still unaccounted for, making this disaster the deadliest in the state’s history. State and federal agencies are scrambling to assist endangered residents, but many families have been unable to locate their loved ones due to cell phone service being down.

Kim Berly is worried about her 79-year-old father, Maurice Buen, who lives in Lahaina. She last spoke with him on Sunday and is hoping he made it out of the fire. However, she only found out about the fire on Wednesday morning and has not been able to reach him since then. Maurice Buen, a trained sniper during the Korean War, is known to locals as “Shadow.” The restricted travel and limited cell service have hindered Ms. Berly’s efforts to communicate with acquaintances looking for her father.

Brittany Talley’s grandfather, Timm “TK” Williams Sr., is also among the missing. He sent a picture of the flames closing in on him as he attempted to evacuate, but all the roads were blocked. He uses a wheelchair and crutches, making it difficult for him to move quickly if needed.

Maui County has launched a family assistance center in Kahului to help those searching for missing relatives. People can report their loved ones missing at the center or online. Governor Josh Green acknowledged the communication issues caused by the lack of power, internet, phone, and radio. He emphasized the importance of officers having access to phones to assist in locating missing individuals.

The fires have devastated the historic town of Lahaina, resulting in the destruction of over 1,000 structures. Homes have been lost, and the normally bustling tourist district has been significantly impacted. This is expected to be the worst natural disaster since the tsunami in 1961 that claimed the lives of 61 people on the Big Island.

As efforts continue to address the wildfires and assist affected residents, families anxiously wait for news about their missing loved ones. The situation highlights the challenges posed by the loss of communication infrastructure during emergencies.

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