Biden promises visit to wildfire stricken Hawaii amid criticism


Over 500 federal emergency personnel have so far been dispatched to help with relief efforts, including 150 search and rescue specialists…reports Asian Lite News

Amid criticism of his administration’s response to the deadly wildfires in Hawaii’s Maui Island that have killed at least 99 people so far, US President Joe Biden has vowed to visit the state “as soon as he can”.

Addressing reporters in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Biden said he wanted to ensure that the people in the state had “everything they need”, reports the BBC.

The President said that he hadn’t visited yet because of concerns that doing so would divert resources and attention from the humanitarian response.

He also announced that First Lady Jill Biden will accompany him to Hawaii.

“I don’t want to get in the way. I’ve been to too many disaster areas. I want to be sure we don’t disrupt ongoing recovery efforts,” the BBC quoted the President as saying

Over 500 federal emergency personnel have so far been dispatched to help with relief efforts, including 150 search and rescue specialists.

Additional personnel are being sent to Maui to help those already on the ground, President Biden said, adding that “all available federal assets” in the region will be used for recovery efforts, including the US military and Coast Guard.

“It’s painstaking work. It takes time and it’s nerve wracking. Every asset they need will be there for them. And we’ll be there in Maui as long as it takes.”

But as authorities fear an increase in the death toll in the coming days, Hawaii residents have complained about the pace of the federal government’s response to the disaster.

On Monday, Governor Josh Green said that only 25 per cent of the affected area had been properly searched for human remains.

Approximately 80 per cent of Lahaina — a historic town of about 12,000 residents — has been completely destroyed in the blaze.

As frustration builds among the residents, a local Les Munn, told the BBC that he has so far received only $500 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) which has approved one-time payments of $700 per household to help with immediate needs in the wake of the disaster.

Another local, Felicia Johnson, said that “everybody wants the glory but nobody wants to put their feet on the ground”.

On a street above the fire line in Lahaina, a woman told the BBC said she feared she would starve to death in the days after the fire.

Ahead of a second trip into the worst-hit area, Amory Mowrey spent $1,700 to load his and his friend’s SUVs with toilet paper, cases of water, packs of batteries and sacks of rice.

“We’re just trying to get supplies as fast as possible into the affected areas so people get what they need,” he told the BBC. “There’s a lack of response, it felt like, from large organisations.”

Liz Germansky, who lost her home in the fire, said that “the government’s getting in the way of people helping”.

“I don’t think the government could have done less,” she told the BBC.

The Hawaii wildfires now the deadliest in more than a century in modern US history, surpassing the Camp Fire that erupted on November 8, 2018, in California and killed at least 85 people.

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