KIHEI, Hawaii — Maui County Emergency Management Administrator Herman Andaya, criticized by local residents and the media for the island’s response to the deadly wildfires that killed at least 111 people, resigned Thursday, officials said.
A statement from Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen cited health reasons.
“Given the severity of the crisis we are facing, my team and I will place someone in this key role as quickly as possible and I look forward to making this announcement soon,” Bissen said.
The resignation comes a day after Andaya made his first appearance at a press conference, which came more than a week after the disaster destroyed or damaged 2,200 buildings and caused some $5.5 billion. of damage. Hundreds of people are still missing.
Some Maui residents said lives could have been saved if the emergency sirens had sounded, but Andaya’s agency chose not to use them, saying they would have been ineffective and confusing.
READ: Maui officials defend decision not to sound sirens during wildfire
“The public is trained to seek higher ground in case the siren sounds,” Andaya said at Wednesday’s press conference, which at times grew tense as reporters questioned the government’s response during the fire.
“If we had sounded the siren that night, we fear that people would have gone mauka (on the mountainside) and if that was the case, they would have gone into the fire,” Andaya said.
In other developments, President Joe Biden pledged Thursday that the United States government would stand firm in its commitment to help Maui residents recover, rebuild and mourn after last week’s deadly wildfires that cremated the historic resort town of Lahaina.
In a brief video shown on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Biden said the federal government has already sent hundreds of emergency personnel, thousands of meals and essential supplies such as beds and blankets. in the devastated city.
“We’ll be with you for as long as it takes, I promise you that,” said Biden, who will travel to Hawaii on Monday to investigate the devastation and meet with first responders and survivors.
Also Thursday, Aug. 17, Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez said in a written statement that she would appoint a private third-party agency to investigate and review how state and county officials responded to the incident. deadly fire.
READ: ‘No one told us jack’: Hawaii fire victims say no warning
Hawaii Governor Josh Green has instructed Lopez to conduct a comprehensive review of actions taken before, during and after the fire, and the third-party investigation will be part of that effort. The review will likely take months, Lopez wrote.
Hundreds of volunteers have come to the aid of displaced Lahaina residents, many of whom are now sleeping in Maui County-run shelters, with friends and relatives, and in hotel rooms and donated vacation rentals.
Volunteers donate supplies, help distribute food and water, and provide emotional support to many of their fellow Maui residents.
“We’re all one big family on Maui, we call it ‘ohana,'” said Louis Romero, a 55-year-old retired battalion chief for the island’s fire department, who helps run a rescue center in the event of a crisis. “You don’t have to be blood relatives to consider yourself family. It’s the Hawaiian way. We help each other.”
READ: Tourists urged to avoid Maui as hotels prepare to welcome evacuees, first responders
Meanwhile, Hawaii’s senior water manager Kaleo Manuel has been moved to a different post, according to a statement from the state’s Department of Lands and Natural Resources, after reports he blocked requests from a real estate development company to release agricultural water to help fight the Lahaina fire. until the fire is established in a wild area.
The Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR) said late Wednesday that the agency was “redeploying” Manuel to “another division of the DLNR.” The release said the move was to allow Maui’s water management agency to focus on wildfire recovery work.
“This deployment does not suggest that First Deputy Manuel did anything wrong,” the statement said.
The Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action said the Hawaii government was using Manuel as a scapegoat for the Lahaina fire and that an earlier dumping of creek water into reservoirs would have done no harm. difference because they are not connected to the Lahaina fire hydrant system and it was too windy for the helicopters. to fly and draw water out of them.
READ: IN PHOTOS: Nearly a week after Maui fire, islanders investigate aftermath and consider recovery
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