Maui sues utility following fatal wildfires

The County of Maui has sued Hawaiian Electric. The company is accused of negligence.
Photo: Kevin Lamarque
Photo: Kevin Lamarque

The Hawaiian county of Maui has sued power company Hawaiian Electric, accusing the company of negligence for failing to extinguish its equipment despite warnings that hurricane-force winds could bring down power lines and start wildfires.

The county says the downed power lines started the wildfires that destroyed the historic city of Lahaina earlier this month.

At least 115 people have died in the fires and hundreds have lost their homes.

The power company and its subsidiary Maui Electric had a duty to operate power lines responsibly. It had been warned by a weather service that there were good conditions for wildfires, the county says.

The lawsuit also states that there had been multiple warnings about the risk of wildfires in the area and that the power company was aware of the danger of fires in the summer when temperatures are high, winds are strong and there is little moisture in the air.

The ”severe and catastrophic” losses due to the wildfires ”could have been easily avoided” if the utility had implemented the plan to turn off the power, the county said.

Hawaiian Electric did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in state court, seeks an unspecified amount of damages to compensate the county for its losses in the fires - including damage to buildings as well as firefighting efforts.

Early estimates suggest that just one of the fires will cost the county USD 5bn.

An official and confirmed cause of the fires is not yet known. However, Hawaiian Electrics has been accused of being responsible in several lawsuits filed against the company in recent days.

(Translated using DeepL with additional editing by Simon Øst Vejbæk)

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