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Debate Arises Over Sirens’ Role in Hawaii Wildfires Amid Rising Death Toll

Amid the ongoing rise in the death toll from the devastating Hawaii wildfires, a heated debate has emerged regarding the potential effectiveness of sirens in countering the deadliest fires in modern US history. The fires, which ignited on August 8 in Maui Island, have claimed 111 lives as of Thursday, with the toll expected to climb as search operations continue.

Residents have voiced concern that they were not evacuated and that the island’s 80 warning sirens remained silent during the evacuation period. The Maui County Emergency Management Agency, responsible for sounding the sirens, has come under severe criticism for its failure to activate the system prior to the catastrophe. The agency’s head, Herman Andaya, resigned amid mounting criticism but cited health reasons for his departure.

Andaya defended the agency’s decision, explaining that the siren system was primarily designated for tsunami alerts. He expressed concerns that sounding the sirens could have prompted residents to flee toward the path of the fires. Governor Josh Green supported this perspective, stating that people might have mistaken a siren for a tsunami warning.

The siren system, used to notify the public about natural disasters, encompasses outdoor sirens, broadcast warnings on TV and radio, and wireless text alerts. The agency activated cell phone, TV, and radio alerts, but the reach was limited due to power and signal outages during the high winds. While some experts debated the effectiveness of sirens, emphasizing their limitations in providing specific instructions, others believed that furnishing more information was crucial. The Hawaii Attorney General’s office is currently reviewing Maui County’s emergency response.