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The embattled leader of Maui County's Emergency Management Agency has resigned

Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya speaks during a news conference in Wailuku, Hawaii, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.
Mike Householder
/
AP
Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya speaks during a news conference in Wailuku, Hawaii, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

MAUI, Hawaii — After facing criticism in recent days for his decision not to activate the siren warning system in the midst of the Maui fires, Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya has stepped down, according to a Facebook post by the County of Maui. He cited health reasons.

"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 in the post.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Andaya was asked whether he regretted choosing not to sound the sirens. "I do not," he said.

He said that the sirens were primarily used for tsunamis and that if they had sounded them, they were afraid people would have gone "mauka" — or toward the mountain. "And if that was the case," he said, "then they would have gone into the fire."

Residents in West Maui have expressed skepticism, and even outrage, at the idea that sirens would have prompted people to run towards the fire. Many say they thought it would have helped: "If I would have heard the siren that morning, I would have at least prepared, you know, packed something in my car, called my parents," said Alex Calma, a Lahaina resident who lost his home.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: August 18, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this story described "mauka" as "onto the mountainside." It's more accurate to say it is a directional indicator toward the mountain. A previous version of the clarification note above, originally posted Aug. 17, 2023, misspelled "mauka" as "makua."
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