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HomeNewsMaui emergency chief quits after wildfire siren controversy – DW – 08/18/2023

Maui emergency chief quits after wildfire siren controversy – DW – 08/18/2023

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Maui Emergency Management Agency’s top official abruptly resigned Thursday after facing criticism over the island’s response to the deadly wildfires that killed at least 111 people.

Administrator Herman Andaya’s resignation comes a day after he defended not sounding warning sirens when asked whether this would have saved lives.

“The sirens are used primarily for tsunamis. The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the siren is sounded. Had we sounded the siren that night, we’re afraid that people would have gone [into the hills]… into the fire,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Hawaii emergency agency head defends fire response

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Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said Andaya cited “health reasons” for leaving his post with immediate effect.

“Given the gravity of the crisis we are facing, my team and I will be placing someone in this key position as quickly as possible, and I look forward to making that announcement soon,” Bissen said.

Hawaii probes emergency response

The outdoor alert siren system in Hawaii is one of the most extensive in the world.

Andaya’s decision not to activate the sirens, coupled with water shortages that hampered firefighters and clogged escape routes, has angered survivors who argue a stronger emergency response might have saved more lives.

Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez said she would appoint an independent body to conduct “an impartial, independent” review of the government’s response to the wildfires

The investigation will likely take months, she added. As of Thursday, searchers had only covered 45% of the burned land.

Hawaii officials struggle to identify fire victims

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lo/ab (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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