Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024|
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This image taken today shows some of the aftermath of the damage from the wildfire in Lahaina. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
UPDATE: 2:49 p.m.
Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya has resigned effective immediately, Mayor Richard Bissen’s office announced.
Andaya cited health reasons, the announcement 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,” Bissen said.
UPDATE: 2:20 p.m.
Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said this afternoon that crews combing through the ruins of Lahaina looking for victims of the Aug. 8 firestorm have searched about 45% of the burned-out, 5-square-mile area.
In an interview with CNN today, Bissen said the number of missing, which has been estimated above 1,000, is still “fluid” and that he was “not exactly sure” of the ultimate tally.
He thanked the FBI for assisting in the search for the missing by analyzing cell phone data, and he said over 200 personnel with 40 cadaver-detecting dogs were searching the rubble.
Asked about the number of missing children, Bissen said he did not want to speculate.
The mayor also avoided answering a question on whether he agreed with Herman Andaya, the Maui Emergency Management Agency administrator, who on Wednesday defended the decision not to activate sirens as flames and smoke began to threaten Lahaina on Aug. 8.
He said the county will cooperate with a state attorney general’s office review of the wildfire response, and that the focus has to remain on the families and residents who lost loved ones and homes.
The confirmed death toll from the disaster remained at 111.
Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez announced today she will be engaging a third-party private organization with experience in emergency management and processes to assess the performance of state and county agencies in preparing and responding to the Maui wildfires.
“This will be an impartial, independent review,” Lopez said this morning in a statement. ”Having a third-party conduct the review will ensure accountability and transparency and reassure the people of Hawaii that all of the facts will be uncovered.
“The information collected will be used to assess the performance in emergency preparedness as we are constantly looking for ways to improve. We intend to look at this critical incident to facilitate any necessary corrective action and to advance future emergency preparedness.”
Gov. Josh Green asked Lopez to conduct “a comprehensive review” of critical decision-making, policies and the actions taken, so that he and leaders can focus on the recovery efforts of this unprecedented disaster.
Green has said it is not a criminal investigation.
Lopez’s office noted the review is likely to take months.
“An independent review will ensure that all aspects of the incident, including any potential shortcomings in preparation, response, and communication, are thoroughly examined,” said state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole in a statement. “By entrusting this process to an unbiased entity, we can collectively ensure that lessons are learned, best practices are identified, and that our communities are better equipped to face similar challenges in the future.”
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