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Hawaii energy firm rejects lawsuit over devastating wildfires

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Honolulu, Aug 29 (IANS) Energy firm, the Hawaiian Electric Company has pushed back against a lawsuit filed by Maui County over the devastating wildfires in the island that have claimed at least 115 lives.

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

She adde tdhat the company believes “the complaint is factually and legally irresponsible”, reports Xinhua news agency.

Maui County had filed the lawsuit on August 24 against Hawaiian Electric Company, alleging that the company, a for-profit, investor-owned utility serving 95 per cent 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 US 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.

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

The company admitted that a blaze at 6.30 a.m. on that day 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 per cent 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”.

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