Hawaii Gov. Josh Green calls ex-emergency manager’s response “utterly unsatisfactory to the world”

Washington — Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said Sunday he wished sirens would have alerted residents on Maui to evacuate as a wildfire quickly spread through Lahaina, calling the response by the island’s now former emergency chief “utterly unsatisfactory to the world.” 

“Of course, as a person, as a father, as a doctor, I wish all the sirens went off,” Green told “Face the Nation.” “The challenge that you’ve heard — and it’s not to excuse or explain anything — the challenge has been that historically, those sirens are used for tsunamis.” 

“Do I wish those sirens went off? Of course I do,” he said. “I think that the answer that the emergency administrator from Maui, who’s resigned, was of course utterly unsatisfactory to the world. But it is the case that that we’ve historically not used those kinds of warnings or fires.” 

Herman Andaya, the head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, resigned Thursday following significant criticism for the agency’s response to the Lahaina wildfire and the failure to sound the island’s warning sirens to alert residents to evacuate. 

When asked Wednesday if he regretted not activating the sirens, Andaya said, “I do not.” He said there was concern that if the sirens were activated that people would have evacuated toward the fire because they are typically used to warn of tsunamis. Instead, warnings were set via text, television and radio, he said. But residents reported receiving none of those alerts because power had been knocked out in the area. 

Hawaii’s official government website also lists a number of disasters, including wildfires, that the sirens can be used for. 

Green said there are still more than 1,000 people unaccounted for and it could take several weeks to identify the remains, and in some cases some remains may be impossible to identify. He also said it’s possible “many children” are among the dead. 

The cause of the wildfires is under investigation, and Green said he did not know whether power lines that were in need of an upgrade were to blame. But he said the consequences of human error are amplified by climate change. 

“We have to ask the question on every level of how any one city, county, state could have done better and the private sector,” he said. “This is the world that we live in now.” 

“There’s no excuses to ever be made,” he said. “But there are finite resources sometimes in the moment.” 

 

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