Biden to Visit Maui Nearly Two Weeks After Catastrophic Fires as 1,000+ People Remain Unaccounted For

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President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will touch down in Maui on Monday as the search goes on for more than 1,000 people left missing and unaccounted for nearly two weeks since wildfires devastated the Hawaii island.

Biden will pause his vacation in Lake Tahoe to fly from Reno, Nevada, to Maui, where he and first lady Jill Biden will take a helicopter tour of the burned-out areas, Reuters reports.

The White House said the president and first lady will also be on the ground to meet with survivors, first responders and emergency personnel to offer comfort and material aid.

A general view shows the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
A general view shows the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

State and local officials will also be reassured the entire nation stands with Hawaii during its time of grief and recovery from the cataclysmic event.

This is despite the president receiving wide criticism for saying survivors of the Maui fires would receive “a one-time $700 payment per household.”

That payment is less than the estimated cost to each American household for the Ukraine War, according to a budget expert at the Heritage Foundation.

The president said in a Sunday statement issued by the White House he understands how loss of life “can impact a family”:

I know how profoundly loss can impact a family and a community and I know nothing can replace the loss of life. I will do everything in my power to help Maui recover and rebuild from this tragedy. And throughout our efforts, we are focused on respecting sacred lands, cultures and traditions.

Jill and I are eager to meet with the brave first responders in Lahaina tomorrow, to spend time with families and community members, and witness firsthand what will be required for the community to recover. We will be here as long as it takes for Maui.

Almost two weeks have passed since the tragic wildfires erupted in Hawaii, burning thousands of acres on Maui island, including the historic town of Lahaina.

Maui county on Saturday confirmed a death toll of 114 with 85 percent of the disaster area searched, UPI reports.

Biden’s arrival comes one week after he was publicly questioned for his views on events in Hawaii and he offered a terse “no comment” after a day spent relaxing at the beach.

He previously went days without speaking about the tragedy when it first took place while vacationing at his Delaware beach house.

Gov. Josh Green told CBS News’ Face The Nation on Sunday an estimated 1,050 people remain unaccounted for.

“It will take several weeks, still — some of the challenges are going to be extraordinary,” he said.

Army search and rescue teams and 41 dogs are involved in the effort that is now moving to inspect larger buildings, which requires the need to sift through the walls and structures, he said.

“The last 15% could take weeks,” he said. “We do have extreme concerns that because of the temperature of the fire, the remains of those who have died, in some cases, may be impossible to recover meaningfully.

“So there are going to be people that are lost forever.”

 

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