Maui emergency response chief quits after heavy criticism for handling of Hawaii wildfire

Lahaina, Hawaii - The embattled head of Maui's emergency management agency, who had come under fire for sirens not being sounded as a wildfire tore through the Hawaiian town of Lahaina, resigned Thursday.

After being criticized for his response to the wildfire that devastated the Hawaiian town of Lahaina, the head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency has resigned.
After being criticized for his response to the wildfire that devastated the Hawaiian town of Lahaina, the head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency has resigned.  © REUTERS

"Today Mayor Richard Bissen accepted the resignation of Maui Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Administrator Herman Andaya," a Maui County release said.

"Citing health reasons, Andaya submitted his resignation effective immediately."

Andaya on Wednesday told a news conference he did not regret the decision to not activate an island-wide network of 121-decibel sirens as the deadly wildfire bore down on Lahaina and its more-than 12,000 residents.

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He argued locals were trained to recognize sirens as warning of an impending tsunami, and the sound would have sent them running towards the fires, not away from them.

That decision, along with other perceived missteps before, during, and after the disaster, which left at least 111 people dead, has sparked fury among survivors, who say more lives could have been saved.

"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.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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