'You failed us': West Maui residents feel abandoned by county during fires

'You failed us': West Maui residents feel abandoned by county during fires
(image: Facebook/Lahaina Strong - Waiola Resource Hub)
(image: Facebook/Lahaina Strong - Waiola Resource Hub)

LAHAINA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Complaints turned into cursing at a community meeting in Lahaina on Wednesday.

Maui county leaders encouraged questions from residents affected by Hurricane Lane and the West Maui wildfires last week.

"Our question for you is, 'Where have you been?'" said Lahaina resident Maria Linz. "It's nice of you to come tonight but you're five days too late. The emergency happened five days ago. You're emergency management. Why are we managing the emergency?"

The meeting was spearheaded by county officials and nearly 200 people packed the Lahainaluna High School cafeteria.

Many of the comments were directed to Maui's Mayor Alan Arakawa.

"We're hearing from the other agencies, the outside agencies saying, 'Oh you have to reach out to state level to get our services. Who's supposed to be reaching out? That's you, Alan! I see you up there nodding your head. You're falling asleep on your job and you have abandoned us and this community," Linz said.

The county headed the community meeting to inform citizens about damage assessments, community recovery assistance, emergency measures and future county actions.

Instead, Arakawa and his staff got an earful from outraged citizens saying the county failed them in a time of need.

Mayor Arakawa defended his staff saying they were doing their very best.

"Talk is cheap. You don't have to be in the middle of the emergency trying to coordinate all the different efforts that we had," Arakawa said. "It's not easy. It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback pretending that you know what's going on when you don't really see all the different efforts going on," Arakawa said.

Residents said they were upset because they felt the Red Cross shelters shut down too soon, not all the fire hydrants worked, and the sirens didn't sound to alert everyone.

The Mayor said he took "very strong offense" to the comments.

"You don't have to be in the middle of the emergency trying to coordinate all the different efforts that we had. It was not something that was happening just in Lahaina. We were dealing with flooding in Hana, we were dealing with road closures, we were dealing with landslides," Arakawa said.

The county said they will follow up on all the community's concerns.

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