The Maui emergency chief who did not activate fire alerts in Hawaii for fear of “mauka” resigned

Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya speaks during a news conference in Wailuku, Hawaii, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Householder) (Mike Householder/)

The exterior sirens remained silent on Maui while a ferocious fire engulfed the coastal community of lahaina last week. The director of the Emergency Management Agency from the island said he did not regret not having activated the system to notify residents.

On Thursday, one day after his statement, Hermann Andaya he resigned from his post. The official had explained that he feared that activating the sirens during the fire could cause people to head “mauka”, a Hawaiian term that can mean towards the mountains or inland.

“If that had been the case, they would have gone to the fire”Andaya added.

But the decision not to activate the sirens, along with a water shortage that hampered the work of firefighters and a traffic jam on a highway where flames lashed fleeing cars, has drawn intense criticism from many residents in the aftermath of the deadliest blaze. registered in the United States in more than a century. At least 111 people have lost their lives.

Mayor, Richard Bissen, accepted Andaya’s resignation effective immediately, Maui County announced on Facebook. Andaya cited unspecified health reasons for leaving the position and no further details were provided.

Fire devastated the town of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui, U.S., August 15, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
The fire devastated the city of Lahaina on the island of Maui in Hawaii, USA, August 15, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File photo (MIKE BLAKE/)

“Given the severity of the crisis we are facing, my team and I will be placing someone in this key position as soon as possible and I look forward to announcing it soon,” Bissen said in a statement.

The absence of the mermaids has been revealed as a possible error, and Associated Press reported that it was part of a series of communication problems that aggravated the chaos. hawaii it has what has been praised as the largest outdoor emergency siren system in the world.

The system was created after a tsunami that left more than 150 dead in the so-called Big Island in 1946 and, according to its website, it can be used to warn of fires.

Hawaii Attorney General, Anne Lopez, said earlier on Thursday that an external organization will carry out an “impartial and independent” assessment of the government’s response, noting that authorities intend to “facilitate any necessary corrective action and advance preparedness for future emergencies.” The investigation is likely to take several months, he added.

Rescue teams bring aid to the victims (REUTERS/Marco Garcia/File)
Rescue teams bring aid to the victims (REUTERS/Marco Garcia/File) (MARCO GARCIA/)

Displaced residents continue to fill the hotels that are prepared to welcome and care for them at least until next spring.

Authorities hope to empty the crowded and uncomfortable shelters early next week, he said. Brad Kiesermann, vice president of emergency operations for the American Red Cross. Hotel rooms will also be available for those who have spent the last eight days sleeping in cars or camping in parking lots, he added.

The search for the missing extended beyond Lahaina to other communities ravaged by fire. As of Thursday, rescuers had barely covered 45% of the charred territory, according to the governor.

(With information from AP)

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