Maui Emergency Administrator Suddenly Quits, Citing Health Reasons.

Image credit: KGMB/KHNL. Herman Andaya, formerly Maui's emergency management agency chief is seen at a news conference.
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Herman Andaya, the administrator of Maui’s emergency management agency has resigned, citing health reasons, Maui County said Thursday – just a day after saying that he had no regrets about not activating sirens to warn residents of wildfires. More than 100 people died in last weeks fire in the town of Lahaina, when fires quickly overwhelmed the coastal town.

The will be effective immediately, the county said.

The wildfires that started August 8 have killed at least 111 people – including children, largely in the area of the town of Lahaina on Maui’s west coast. And most of the burn zone still needs searching, officials have said.

“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,” Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said.

Details about the health reasons that Andaya cited were not immediately available.

A spokesperson for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said last week that no one attempted to activate Maui’s 80-alarm all-hazard outdoor siren system – part of a larger statewide network – as the deadly fires spread August 8.

At a Wednesday news conference, Andaya was asked whether he regretted not sounding the alarms. Andaya said, “I do not,” telling reporters he worried that if they had sounded, many residents would’ve gone inland and “would have gone into the fire.”

US Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii criticized that response later that day, calling Andaya’s assessment of the situation and comment about not regretting his decision “premature.”

Before Andaya’s resignation was announced, state Sen. Angus McKelvey, who represents the devastated town of Lahaina and lost his own home in the fires, blasted Andaya’s response as “insulting.”

“I’ve heard the line that ‘people would have panicked and ran up to the mountains because it’s a tsunami siren.’ … It’s insulting to think that people would be that clueless, that they wouldn’t know that sirens blasting was because of the fire,” McKelvey told CNN on Thursday. “These are not tsunami sirens. They’re disaster sirens.”

It remains unclear why exactly the sirens system weren’t used, as narratives about the silence have shifted. In interviews with CNN, Green has said some sirens were broken. The governor has asked the state attorney general to review the fire and officials’ response, including the alarms’ silence.

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