(RepublicanDaily.org) – While the death toll from the devastating wildfires in Maui continues to climb, some are pointing at carelessness on the part of utility Hawaiian Electric Co. as the cause for the blaze, with a class-action lawsuits on the way.
The utility company is already facing several lawsuits related to the deadly fires, which have caused 106 deaths so far and razed the historical seaside town of Lahaina. Hawaiian Electric Co. is responsible for providing electricity to 95% of Hawaii’s residents, including those in Maui.
The lawsuits are alleging that Hawaiian Electric failed to shut off power in the affected areas despite high wind warnings. The suits said that the power provider “chose not to deenergize their power lines” in spite of issuance of High Wind Watch and Red Flag warnings for Maui prior to the fire in Lahaina. Furthermore, the complaints point to the company’s own documents that say that it considers power shutoffs as a preventive measure against wildfires.
In an interview with CNN, Jim Kelly, vice president of the power utility, admitted that Hawaiian Electric did not have a shutdown program in place, and said that the company would not issue comments on pending litigation.
Trade prices for the company’s share have already plummeted by as much as 40% and ratings agency Standard and Poor downgraded the utility’s credit rating. If the fate of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), whose power lines were blamed for the 2018 Camp Fire, are any indication, Hawaii Electric stands to lose significantly more if courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs. The 2018 Camp Fire was responsible for more than 80 fatalities and annihilated the town of Paradise in California – and saw PG&E spend billions of dollars in settlement actions.
Property damage from the blaze – the majority of which were residential properties – is estimated to be at around $6 billion. There has also been widespread repercussions to the area’s economy due to losses from tourism, as the local government urged tourists to visit other islands in Hawaii, with thousands of visitors transported off Maui. Maui officials also have had to deal with issues with looters and shady land prospectors.
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