Herman Andaya, the administrator of Maui County Emergency Management, who had faced intense criticism for his office’s failure to activate warning sirens during the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history, has announced his resignation on Thursday.
Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya today defended the decision not to activate emergency sirens warning #Maui residents and visitors about the wildfires. Here’s a clip from the press conference.
— Star-Advertiser (@StarAdvertiser) August 17, 2023
“The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the siren is sounded,” Andaya said.
“We were afraid that people would have gone mauka,” he added, using a Hawaiian term meaning toward the mountains or inland. “If that was the case, then they would have gone into the fire.”
According to a statement by Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen, Andaya is stepping down due to health reasons. Bissen expressed the seriousness of the ongoing crisis and mentioned that a replacement for this crucial position will be appointed promptly.
“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.
Andaya’s resignation follows his first public appearance at a press conference, which occurred a week after the devastating wildfire began. The fires resulted in the destruction of over 2,700 buildings, causing an estimated $5.5 billion in property damage. The confirmed death toll for Maui residents stands at 111, but this number is expected to rise as numerous individuals are still missing.
In another turn of events, people are questioning M. Kaleo Manuel, a Hawaiian official who refused to release water resources and let landowners fight the Maui fire, for giving an odd explanation of his approach to water management.
Here is M. Kaleo Manuel, the Hawaii water official who refused to release water resources and let landowners fight the Maui fire, explaining his “philosophy” about water:
“Native Hawaiians treated water as one of the earthly manifestations of a god…We’ve become used to looking… pic.twitter.com/hjsWqdVtxf
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) August 17, 2023
“Native Hawaiians treated water as one of the earthly manifestations of a god…We’ve become used to looking at water as something that we use, and not something that we revere… We can reconnect to that traditional value set,” he said.
In another development, Kaleo Manuel, a significant figure in Hawaii’s senior water management, has been reassigned to a different role, as stated by the state’s land and natural resources department.
Although Manuel has been reassigned, the department has defended him against allegations of misconduct. The department’s statement emphasized: “This deployment does not suggest that First Deputy Manuel did anything wrong.”
Numerous Maui residents have voiced dissatisfaction with the government’s response, asserting that activating the warning sirens appropriately could have potentially saved many lives.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Andaya stated, “When the siren is sounded, the public is instructed to move to higher ground. Our concern was that had we triggered the siren that night, people might have headed mauka (toward the mountainside), putting them in the path of the fire.”
Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez declared in a written statement on Thursday her intention to appoint an independent third party to investigate and assess the actions of both state and county officials in response to the wildfire. This comprehensive review is expected to take several months, according to Lopez.