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Maui’s Emergency Services Chief Resigns After Facing Criticism For Not Activating Sirens During Fire

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Maui's Emergency Services Chief Resigns After Facing Criticism For Not Activating Sirens During Fire

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — The head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, who has been under fire for not activating disaster sirens during last week’s wildfire response, resigned Thursday, citing health reasons.

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen accepted the resignation of Herman Andaya, the County of Maui announced on Facebook.

“Given the gravity of the crisis we are facing, my team and I will be placing someone in this key position as quickly as possible and I look forward to making that announcement soon,” Bissen said.

As the wildfire death toll rose to 111 on Wednesday, Andaya defended not sounding sirens as flames raged.

Andaya said he was afraid the sirens would have prompted people to flee into mountains or inland, where fires were burning.

Hawaii has what it touts as the largest system of outdoor alert sirens in the world.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Maui residents whose homes burned in a wildfire that incinerated a historic town and killed more than 100 people are steadily filling Hawaii hotels that are prepared to house them and provide services until at least next spring, officials said Thursday.

Authorities hope to empty crowded, uncomfortable group shelters by early next week and move displaced people into hotel rooms, said Brad Kieserman, vice president for disaster operations with the American Red Cross. Hotels are also available for eligible evacuees who have spent the last eight days sleeping in cars or camping in parking lots, he said.

“We will be able to keep folks in hotels for as long as it takes to find housing for them,” Kieserman said at a media briefing. “I am confident we’ll have plenty of rooms.”

Contracts with the hotels will last for at least seven months but could easily be extended, he said. The properties will be staffed by service providers who will offer meals, counseling, financial assistance and other disaster aid.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green has said at least 1,000 hotel rooms will be set aside for those who lost their homes. In addition, AirBnB’s nonprofit wing will provide properties for 1,000 people, the company said.

The governor has also vowed to protect local landowners from being “victimized” by opportunistic buyers when Maui rebuilds. Green said Wednesday that he instructed the state attorney general to work toward a moratorium on land transactions in Lahaina, even as he acknowledged the move would likely face legal challenges.

“My intention from start to finish is to make sure that no one is victimized from a land grab,” Green said at a news conference. “Do not approach their families saying they’ll be much better off if they make a deal. Because we’re not going to allow it.”

Since flames consumed much of Lahaina just over a week ago, locals have feared that a rebuilt town could become even more oriented toward wealthy visitors, according to Lahaina native Richy Palalay.

Hotels and condos “that we can’t afford to live in — that’s what we’re afraid of,” he said Saturday at a shelter for evacuees.

Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez said Thursday that an outside organization will conduct “an impartial, independent” review into the government’s response to the fires.

“We intend to look at this critical incident to facilitate any necessary corrective action and to advance future emergency preparedness,” Lopez said in a statement. She said the investigation will likely take months.

As the death toll rose to 111 on Wednesday, the head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency defended not sounding sirens as flames raged. Hawaii has what it touts as the largest system of outdoor alert sirens in the world.

“We were afraid that people would have gone mauka,” said agency administrator Herman Andaya, using a navigational term that can mean toward the mountains or inland in Hawaiian. “If that was the case, then they would have gone into the fire.”

The system was created after a 1946 tsunami that killed more than 150 on the Big Island, and its website says they may be used to alert for fires.

Avery Dagupion, whose family’s home was destroyed, said he’s angry that residents weren’t given earlier warning to get out.

He pointed to an announcement by Maui Mayor Richard Bissen on Aug. 8 saying the fire had been contained. That lulled people into a sense of safety and left him distrusting officials, he said.

At the news conference, Green and Bissen bristled when asked about such criticism.

“I can’t answer why people don’t trust people,” Bissen said. “The people who were trying to put out these fires lived in those homes — 25 of our firefighters lost their homes. You think they were doing a halfway job?”

The cause of the wildfires, the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century, is under investigation. But Hawaii is increasingly at risk from disasters, with wildfire rising fastest, according to an Associated Press analysis of FEMA records.

The local power utility faced criticism for leaving power on as strong winds from a passing hurricane buffeted a parched area last week, and one video shows a cable dangling in a charred patch of grass, surrounded by flames, in the early moments of the wildfire.

“Facts about this event will continue to evolve,” Hawaiian Electric CEO Shelee Kimura wrote in an email to utility customers Thursday. “And while we may not have answers for some time, we are committed, working with many others, to find out what happened as we continue to urgently focus on Maui’s restoration and rebuilding efforts.”

Meanwhile, signs of recovery emerged as public schools across Maui reopened, welcoming displaced students from Lahaina, and traffic resumed on a major road.

The search for the missing moved beyond Lahaina to other oceanside communities that were destroyed. Searchers had covered about 45% of the burned territory by Thursday, the governor said.

Corrine Hussey Nobriga, whose home was spared, watched crews sifting through ash and debris looking for human remains. While some of her neighbors raised questions about the absence of sirens and inadequate evacuation routes, Nobriga said it was hard to lay blame for a tragedy that took everyone by surprise.

“One minute we saw the fire over there,” she said, pointing toward far away hills, “and the next minute it’s consuming all these houses.”

The ongoing search was marred by intermittent cellphone service and misleading information on social media. There were also challenges finding people who may be in hospitals, hunkered down at friends’ houses or in unofficial shelters that have popped up. Many people made fliers and were going door to door in search of loved ones.

Judy Riley, who has been working with families seeking relatives, said false leads and a sense that “no one is in charge of the missing” have contributed to a sense of despair.

“If you are looking for the missing, it’s easy for people to slip through the cracks,” she said.

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the name Nobriga in one instance.

Kelleher reported from Honolulu and Weber from Los Angeles. Contributing to this report were Associated Press journalists Michael Casey in Concord, New Hampshire; Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island; Seth Borenstein in Washington, D.C.; and Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri.

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.



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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again

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Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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