President Biden issues major disaster declaration as wildfires burn in Hawaii

At least 36 people have died in Hawaii as a result of deadly wildfires

Ariana Baio
Thursday 10 August 2023 20:56 BST

Hawaii wildfires: Aerial footage shows historic town of Lahaina burnt to the ground

President Joe Biden declared the wildfires in Hawaii to be a major disaster, allowing for the state to use federal funding in recovery efforts.

On Thursday, Mr Biden issued the declaration after 36 people died and thousands of others were evacuated as a result of the raging wildfires that burned through several areas of Maui, Hawaii and Ohau.

The fires, which began earlier this week, have caused extensive damage in towns, including the historic town of Lahaina, knocked out power and cellphone service.

Thousands of visitors and residents have been ordered to evacuate.

The new declaration will allow Hawaii to use federal funding to assist individual and business recovery efforts in Maui County.

The federal assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs for individuals and business owners.

The funding is available to eligible local governments, as well as the state, and certain private nonprofit organisations for debris removal and emergency protective measures.

This is on top of the federal assets Mr Biden sent to Hawaii on Wednesday evening.

Wildfires burn in Kihei, Hawaii on Thursday 10 August

In remarks given on Thursday, Mr Biden said he a “long” conversation with Hawaii Governor Josh Green where he made sure he had all available resources.

The president has also ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to “streamline” all requests.

Mr Biden appointed Maona Ngwira to coordinate federal recovery operations.

“We offer our prayers, not just our prayers but every asset we have will be available,” Mr Biden said.

Unprecedented wildfires in Hawaii, made worse by drought conditions and a Category 5 Hurricane in the Pacific, caused extensive damage and death in Maui.

Videos and photos from the islands on Tuesday evening showed massive blazes burning through multiple neighbourhoods.

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