Hawaii’s Governor Orders a Review of Whether Warning Systems Worked Properly


Gov. Josh Green of Hawaii said on Friday that he had authorized a review of the emergency response to the devastating fires that decimated the town of Lahaina, even as he said that unusually powerful winds and fast-moving flames had complicated the effort.

Pressed in an interview on CNN about the lack of audible sirens and warnings about the fire, Mr. Green said that when fires reignited on Lahaina earlier this week, emergency responders were focused on other fires elsewhere.

Telecommunications were destroyed by the flames, making it difficult to convey the ferocity of the new fire. Mr. Green also described how helicopters were unable to spray water over the fire because of winds that reached as high as 80 miles per hour.

“That’s not, again, to make any excuse for anyone, and we’re going to check and be very safe and sure that we did what we could,” he said. “But I have to tell you, this was a very fluid situation across the island.”

He also pointedly noted the toll of climate change and the challenges of Hawaii’s distance from the mainland when it came to the devastation and recovery.

“We will do all that we can to find out how to protect our people more going forward,” Mr. Green said. “It’s just we’ve not seen populations like this in the last 30,40, 50 years ever threatened in an era of global warming. And that’s a concern.”

Federal officials have repeatedly pledged assistance to the state, with President Biden calling Mr. Green on Friday and Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, speaking with Lloyd J. Austin III, the secretary of defense.

“Of course, everybody wants Lahaina to rebuild, and, of course, we will work on that,” Mr. Schatz said. “But this tragedy is not over. The disaster response is not over. Fires are not out. The electricity is not back up. The fiber is not back up. And so, it’s important for us to operationally prepare for a recovery, but we are not in the recovery phase. We are in the middle of this disaster.”

But he said that it would take Congress approving an emergency aid package to appropriately support the state’s recovery.

“It’s a full rebuild,” Mr. Schatz said. “It’s an entire town that has roughly 12,000 people, and it’s been flattened. There’s not a single thing we won’t need.”


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