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Biden says he will visit Hawaii ‘soon’ amid backlash over response

At least 99 people have died as a result of the wildfires in Maui, Hawaii

Ariana Baio
Tuesday 15 August 2023 20:43 BST
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Joe and Jill Biden to visit Hawaii to survey aftermath of wildfires

President Joe Biden said he is working with the government to find a time to visit Hawaii after the devastating wildfires – following blowback over his previous comments about the disaster.

About 20 minutes into Mr Biden’s planned speech about his economic policy on Tuesday in Milwaukee, he pivoted to the impact of the Maui wildfires.

“I got to talk a little bit about Hawaii,” Mr Biden said before sharing his concerns about the victims and reiterating actions he’s taken to send federal assistance to Maui where at least 99 people were killed and thousands of others have been displaced due to the fires.

This past week and over the weekend, Mr Biden faced heavy criticism for his response regarding the fires.

While Hawaii grappled with the wildfires, the president spent time at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware where he was photographed riding his bike and lounging on the beach.

But the President chose to give a more concrete statement about the disaster on Tuesday.

He said: “My wife Jill and I are going to travel to Hawaii as soon as we can. That’s what I’ve been talking to the government about, I don’t want to get in the way.”

“I’ve been to too many disaster areas. But I want to go make sure we got everything they need. Want to be sure we don’t disrupt the ongoing recovery efforts.”

Charred remains of a burned neighbourhood is seen in the aftermath of a wildfire, in Lahaina, western Maui, Hawaii on August 14 (AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Biden declared a major disaster shortly after the fires erupted last week. But some Republicans lambasted Mr Biden for not having a more public-facing approach to coordinating federal relief efforts.

Reporters repeatedly asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre why Mr Biden had not been more vocal about his concern for the victims of the wildfire. Some questioned why the president had not scheduled a visit yet.

But the Biden administration, as well as Mr Biden, has insisted that behind-the-scenes they have been working hard to bring all federal relief efforts to the people of Hawaii.

Mr Biden spent approximately five minutes touching on all the ways he’s directed leaders in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as several branches of the military to provide all recovery assistance to Hawaii.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Hawaii, but not just our prayers – every asset, every asset they need will be there for them. And we will be there in Maui as long as it takes,” Mr Biden added.

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