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Maui County sues Hawaii's top energy firm over devastating wildfires

Christian Fernsby |
U.S. Maui County filed a lawsuit on Thursday against energy firm Hawaiian Electric Company over the devastating wildfires that have claimed at least 115 lives on Hawaii's Maui island.

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The lawsuit alleges the company 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 wildfires 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 been damaged by the blaze, at an estimated cost of nearly 6 billion U.S. dollars.

"The lawsuit alleges that the Defendants acted negligently by failing to power down their electrical equipment despite a National Weather Service Red Flag Warning on August 7," said the county in a statement, adding that the lawsuit further alleges the company's energized and downed power lines ignited dry fuel such as grass and brush, causing the fires.

The lawsuit also alleges failure to maintain the system and power grid, which caused the systemic failures starting three different fires on August 8.

As of Thursday evening, the wildfire in Lahaina has burned an estimated 2,170 acres and was 90 percent contained, said the county in an update. Officials noted that there are no noteworthy flareups in recent days.

Officials also released a list of 388 people who remain unaccounted for on Thursday.

"We're releasing this list of names today because we know that it will help with the investigation," said Maui Police Chief John Pelletier in a press release.

"We also know that once those names come out, it can and will cause pain for folks whose loved ones are listed. This is not an easy thing to do, but we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make this investigation as complete and thorough as possible," he added.


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