Hawaii energy firm rejects lawsuit from Maui County over devastating wildfires

The wildfires in Maui are the deadliest in the United States in more than a century, and the worst natural disaster in Hawaii's history.

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This photo taken on Aug. 20, 2023 shows the aftermath of wildfires in Lahaina town, Maui Island, Hawaii, the United States. (Photo by Zeng Hui/Xinhua)

The top energy firm Hawaiian Electric Company in the U.S. state of Hawaii on Sunday night pushed back against a lawsuit filed by Maui County over the devastating wildfires that have claimed at least 115 lives on Maui island.

“We were surprised and disappointed that the County of Maui rushed to court even before completing its own investigation,” said Shelee Kimura, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric, in a statement, adding that the company believes “the complaint is factually and legally irresponsible.”

Maui County filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Hawaiian Electric Company. The lawsuit alleges the company, a for-profit, investor-owned utility serving 95 percent of the Hawaii customer base, caused civil damages “to the County’s public property and resources caused by recent Maui fires, including fires in Lahaina and in Kula.”

The wildfires in Maui are the deadliest in the United States in more than a century, and the worst natural disaster in Hawaii’s history.

The deadly wildfires have scorched much of the historic town of Lahaina, a popular tourist spot on Maui and once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. More than 2,200 buildings have been destroyed and another 500 damaged by the blaze, at an estimated cost of nearly 6 billion U.S. dollars.

In the statement, Hawaiian Electric Company said that “several important facts are clear about the events on Aug. 8.”

The company admitted that a fire at 6:30 a.m. local time appears to have been caused by power lines that fell in high winds, but the Maui County Fire Department responded to this fire, reported it was “100% contained,” left the scene and later declared it had been “extinguished.”

“At about 3 p.m., a time when all of Hawaiian Electric’s power lines in West Maui had been de-energized for more than six hours, a second fire began in the same area,” said the company, noting that “the cause of the devastating afternoon fire has not been determined.”

Xinhua News Agency

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