The death toll in the Maui wildfires is now 110, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said at a Wednesday news conference where officials faced often heated questions about the county’s actions as wildfire swept across the island last week, sending people scrambling for safety.
With so many deaths and many more people unaccounted for, the governor has commissioned the state attorney general to investigate the response. But survivors, some of who were forced to seek refuge in the ocean, have demanded answers for issues like why no warning sirens sounded.
Hawaii has one the largest siren warning systems in the world, but the 80 alarms on Maui, stayed silent. Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya told reporters Wednesday afternoon he has no regrets about not using sirens as the fires started spreading wildly August 8 and that doing so wouldn’t have affected the death toll.
Andaya said the sirens are primarily used to warn when a tsunami is approaching the area and if they had sounded, many residents would’ve gone to the mountainside, where the fire was at its worst.
“Even if we sounded the sirens, it would not have saved those people on the mountainside,” said Andaya, who later added there are no sirens on the mountains – most are on the coastline.
Andaya said the protocol for fires was to send out notices through texts, voicemails and to landlines, and notifications to televisions and radios.
“It is our practice to use the most effective means of conveying an emergency message to the public during a wildland fire,” he said.
But the fire quickly brought down communication networks, officials have said.
When asked about the condition of the siren network, Green told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “These sirens have been aging over decades. Some have received maintenance. We are waiting to see what others had available to them. But intermittently, some were broken and we’re doing a full assessment.”