President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden traveled to Maui, Hawaii, to meet with residents affected by the wildfires that have swept through the area this month, the deadliest wildfires in modern U.S. history.
During his visit, President Biden surveyed the charred town of Lahaina, where around 850 people are believed to still be missing, and promised that the federal government would do everything possible to assist with the recovery.
Biden expressed his condolences to the affected community, stating, “The country grieves with you, stands with you and will do everything possible to help you recover, rebuild and respect culture and traditions.” He mentioned the extensive search-and-rescue efforts involving 450 experts working tirelessly and also highlighted a more than 100-year-old banyan tree that had survived the fires, symbolizing resilience.
“Today it’s burned, but it’s still standing,” Biden said. “Trees survive for a reason. I believe it’s a powerful, a very powerful symbol, of what we can and will do to get through this crisis.”
The president and first lady took part in a blessing ceremony with Lahaina elders and attended a community event. Biden also emphasized his personal understanding of grief, having lost his infant daughter and first wife in a car accident.
As of the latest reports, the wildfires have tragically claimed at least 114 lives, with 27 victims identified. More than 1,285 people have been located safely. President Biden previously signed a major disaster declaration for the state, making federal aid available to help Maui County residents recover.
Biden’s visit to Maui drew some criticism from Republicans, who had accused him of not addressing the wildfires earlier. However, the president did mention the catastrophe during a speech in Salt Lake City and also in remarks in Milwaukee.
The administration has been working to provide aid to the affected area, with more than 1,000 federal personnel on the ground, including search-and-rescue teams and resources such as meals, water, and shelter supplies. FEMA has approved over $8 million in assistance to nearly 2,500 households.
President Biden’s visit to Hawaii aimed to assess the situation firsthand and discuss the next steps in the recovery effort.
President Biden’s words during the visit were solemn and empathetic as he addressed the community’s pain:
“The country grieves with you, stands with you and will do everything possible to help you recover, rebuild and respect culture and traditions.”
Biden’s personal experiences with grief added an empathetic touch to his visit:
“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.”
In essence, his visit aimed to offer solace and support to the affected residents while emphasizing the resilience and unity of the community in the face of adversity.