‘Wow … LOL’: Text messages from ex-MEMA head point to lack of urgency during Lahaina

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The state Attorney General’s Office just released part one of its sprawling investigation into the Maui wildfires, offering a minute-by-minute timeline of the disaster.

A closer look at the report also reveals a concerning lack of urgency from the Maui County’s Emergency Management Agency at the height of the crisis. It’s been well documented that then-MEMA director Herman Andaya was on Oahu for a conference on Aug. 8. That day, county firefighters and police had been responding to incidents in Upcountry and Lahaina.

The report documents a series of disturbing text messages between Andaya and MEMA administrative assistant Gaye Gabuat, during which they show a lack of concern.

Here are some of those messages:

3:53 p.m.

Gaye Gabuat to Herman Andaya: “Lol. Poor chief looks so overwhelm. Chief is wanting help from the military. Not sure of what.”

4:01 p.m.

Andaya to Gabuat: “This is crazy. How is everyone holding up?”

4:03 p.m.

Andaya to Gabuat: “Should I come home?

Gabuat to Andaya: “PIOs are funny. There are 3 of them and they look scared and overwhelmed….I think they need a hug lol to calm down.”

9:37 p.m.

Andaya to Gabuat: “How’s the other fires?”

9:38 p.m.

Gabuat to Andaya: “Still burning”

Andaya to Gabuat: “Wow … Lol”

Gabuat to Andaya: “Now we have Kihei fire near Pulehu Road.”

Andaya to Gabuat: “You just keep making my day.”

10:58 p.m.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency administrator James Barros to Andaya: “LtG just called…Very concerned.”

Andaya to Barros: “Yes….this is really bad. I’m flying back tomorrow.”

At a news conference Wednesday, state Attorney General Anne Lopez said the report’s purpose was “not to place blame on anybody” for the disaster, which claimed 101 lives. She added, “This is about never letting this happen again. That is my focus and will continue to be my focus.”

Andaya resigned shortly after the fires, citing personal reasons.

Phase two of the report is expected to provide independent analysis of the emergency response.

The full report and related documents can be viewed here.

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