In a very difficult public appearance, Maui’s Emergency Management Agency chief, Herman Andaya, reported on why emergency sirens did not sound as wildfires approached Lahaina.
More than 111 people are confirmed dead and more than 1,000 remain missing in last week’s fire that devastated a large area in Maui, according to the Daily Wire.
At a press conference, Andaya explained that the decision to forgo the sirens was made out of concern that residents might mistakenly head toward the fire, given that the sirens are traditionally used for tsunami warnings that instruct Hawaiians to seek higher ground.
The New York Post reported Andaya saying: “Had we sounded the siren that night, we’re afraid that people would have gotten mauka [toward the mountains] and if that was the case, then they would have gone into the fire.” He further clarified, “I should also note that there are no sirens mauka, or on the mountainside, where the fire was spreading down. So even if we sounded the siren, we would not have saved those people out there on the mountainside.”
During the press conference, a journalist brought up the anguish of survivors who believed that their family members might have been saved had the sirens been activated. In response, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, who was also present, supported Andaya’s decision, stating that even he would have anticipated a tsunami upon hearing the sirens.
Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez announced last week that her office will undertake a “comprehensive review” of the decisions made by officials in relation to the wildfires.
The aftermath of the wildfires has been devastating. Only 38% of the affected area has been searched, and the death toll is expected to rise dramatically.
Preliminary reports indicate that some of the fires on the island were ignited by fallen power lines and the flames fanned by high winds from an offshore hurricane.
In Makawao, approximately 30 miles from Lahaina, security footage from the Maui Bird Conservation Center captured a power line initiating a fire in the woods. While the Makawao fire did not directly impact Lahaina, it was among the multiple fires that eventually reached the town of 13,000 residents.
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