As fires burned over the island, a government official from Maui has stated he does not regret his decision not to activate the emergency alert system.
Herman Andaya, head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, said at a press conference on Wednesday that he did not feel any remorse for his decision not to sound the emergency sirens. News reports quote Andaya saying, “The sirens were designed to be utilized for many different purposes.”
When the reporter questioned Andaya whether he ever regretted his decision, another official barged in, clearly upset. The journalist had asked Andaya whether he had any regrets about his choice. His colleague took offense and interrupted the line of questioning. But Andaya faced the music and answered. He said the emergency sirens “are largely employed for tsunamis.” He also pointed out that many of them “are positioned on the shore.”
In case the alert goes off, the public, as stated by Andaya, “is urged to seek higher ground.” “If you are in a low-lying area along the coast, it is strongly advised that you move to higher ground, as stated by the Hawaiian Emergency Management Agency on their website.
Andaya claims that officials were afraid that if they had “sounded the alarm that night,” people would have gone mauka (meaning “mountainside”).
The fire, Andaya said, would have been their fate “if it was the fact.” He added, “There are no sirens mauka,” which is Hawaiian for “up on the mountain,” referring to where the fire was starting. So, even if we had sounded the sirens, it wouldn’t have been enough to save the people clinging to the mountainside on the mauka side.
The fires that have been blazing across Hawaii have claimed the lives of more than a hundred people, making them the worst in the state’s history.