Maui’s emergency management chief has quit after criticism over his agency’s failure to activate its alarm system during a deadly wildfire last week.
Herman Andaya had previously defended the response around the fire. But on Thursday, August 17, Mayor Richard Bissen accepted Andaya’s resignation, which cited “health reasons”.
Bissen added: “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.”
Officials have confirmed 111 people died after a wildfire broke out in Hawaii last week. Hundreds more are missing.
Maui has an alarm system with 80 sirens around the island. It is sounded on the first of every month as a test.
The 60-second tone is considered a normal part of life in Lahaina, reports the BBC. However, on the day of the fire, the alarm system remained silent.
Andaya, the boss of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, said he did not regret that decision on Wednesday. Andaya claimed the siren, which is often used in the event of a tsunami, could have encouraged people to look for higher ground, potentially heading towards the flames.
However, critics say it could have saved more lives.
Lahaina residents told the BBC that the siren would have warned them of the impending danger. Sherlyn Pedroza, who lost her family home in the blaze, said: “The sirens should have been sounded.
“It would have alerted at least some people stuck at their house – work was off, school was off – it would have alerted them to get out.”