Updated Aug 17, 2023 - Science

Maui emergency chief abruptly resigns amid Hawai'i fires response

Aerial images east of town where homes and businesses lay in ruins after last week's devastating wildfire swept through town.

Aerial images east of Lahaina, Maui, where homes and businesses lay in ruins on Thursday after last week's devastating Hawai'i wildfires swept through town. Photos: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Maui Emergency Management Agency's top official resigned Thursday after facing criticism over the response to Hawai'i's catastrophic wildfires that have killed at least 111 people.

Driving the news: Herman Andaya cited "health reasons" as he resigned as the agency's administrator with immediate effect, per a Maui County statement.

  • Andaya on Thursday defended his agency's decision not to sound warning sirens when asked whether this would've saved lives, saying this was primarily used for tsunamis and people were "trained to seek higher ground" when these were sounded.

The big picture: Hundreds of people remain missing from the fires, which swept through the islands of Maui, Big Island and Oahu on Aug. 8.

  • Maui's Lahaina fire was the most destructive, razing an estimated 80% of buildings in the historic town of the same name.

What's next: "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," Mayor Richard Bissen said in a statement.

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Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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