Lahaina, United States – President Joe Biden told survivors of a horrific fire in Hawaii that the government would not abandon them as he visited the scene of the worst wildfire the United States has seen in more than a decade. ‘a century.
The 80-year-old donned the mantle of chief comforter as he saw firsthand the devastation wrought in Lahaina by a fire that killed at least 114 people as it leveled the historic town.
“I know the feeling that a lot of people in this city, this community (have); this hollow feeling in your chest like you’re being sucked into a black hole,” he said as he stood near the blackened skeleton of a historic banyan tree.
“We are with you as long as it takes, I promise, making sure your voices are heard.
“We will rebuild the way the people of Maui want to build. The fire cannot reach the roots. It’s Maui. It’s America.
Biden is taking a rearguard action against criticism that his government has been too slow to respond to the disaster, with residents angry at what some see as a labored official response.
Former President Donald Trump said it was “shameful” his successor hadn’t been to Hawaii sooner, although the White House said Biden had delayed his trip so as not to distract officials and officials. rescuers working in the field.
Residents also blasted Maui officials who they said should have set off an alarm system when the fire broke out.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden walked through the ravaged remains of Lahaina with Hawaii Gov. Josh Green and his wife, nearly two weeks after ferocious, wind-swept fires sent residents jumping into the ocean to escape the flames.
After a helicopter tour of the damage, Biden is to announce new relief funding and the appointment of a federal response coordinator.
Biden, who traveled from Nevada where he was vacationing, said in a statement that “I know there is no substitute for the loss of life. I will do everything in my power to help Maui recover from this tragedy and rebuild.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, defending the government’s response, said Biden’s one-day visit should underscore his commitment to securing Hawaii’s recovery.
She said more than 1,000 federal responders were now in Hawaii – and added that none of them should be moved to the southwestern United States, which is dealing with the effects of Tropical Storm Hilary. .
Maui residents say the process of recovering lost loved ones – and identifying the bodies – has been painfully slow, criticizing the government for being slow.
As a result, “a warm welcome may not be assured for Biden in some Maui circles,” the Honolulu Star-Advertiser concluded.
While search teams have covered 85% of the search area, the remaining 15% could take weeks, Gov. Josh Green said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” The extreme heat of the fire meant that it might be impossible to salvage some remains.
Criswell acknowledged the process could be slow, but said the federal government sent experts from the FBI, the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services to help with the painstaking identification process.
Presidential visits to major disaster areas, while considered almost politically obligatory, can be risky.
When President George W. Bush visited Louisiana in 2005 to witness the historic devastation of Hurricane Katrina, critics snapped up photos of him staring out the window of Air Force One as it flew overhead New Orleans to say his remote visit lacked empathy.
And when then-President Donald Trump casually threw rolls of paper towels into a crowd in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico in 2017, critics called his gesture cavalier and callous.
Biden arrives in Hawaii to investigate Maui wildfire damage and talk to survivors
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