Follow live updates as Biden visits Maui to survey wildfire damage.
President Biden left his summer vacation on Monday to fly to Hawaii to survey the damage caused by wildfires that have killed more than 100 people and effectively destroyed a coastal town on the island of Maui.
Spending the week with his family at Lake Tahoe in Nevada, Mr. Biden’s trip to Hawaii was attended by first lady Jill Biden, who also met fire survivors, emergency workers and state and local officials, her aides said.
The president has come under fire from Republicans for not being public enough about their views on the Aug. 8 fire that ravaged the town of Lahaina. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser warned “Biden doesn’t get a warm welcome in some circles on Maui” because of frustrations with applying for aid and cultural sensitivities involving native Hawaiians.
White House officials have dismissed the criticism, saying the president is in close contact with Hawaii Gov. Josh Green and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell. On Sunday, Maui County Governor Greene and Mayor Richard T. Bisen Jr. along with Mr. Officials said Biden spoke.
“My heart, my prayers and my attention go out to the victims of the Maui wildfires and their families,” said Mr. Biden said in a written statement released by the White House on Sunday. “I know how deeply loss can affect a family and a community, and I know that nothing can replace the loss of life. I will do everything in my power to help Maui recover from this tragedy and rebuild.”
He also said that the central government will respect sacred lands, cultures and traditions in its recovery efforts. “Jill and I look forward to meeting the brave first responders in Lahaina tomorrow, spending time with families and community members, and seeing firsthand what it takes for the community to recover,” he said. “We’ll be here until it takes us to Maui.”
As of Saturday, more than 1,000 federal workers were on the ground in Maui, according to the White House, including more than 450 search and rescue personnel. FEMA has provided more than 50,000 meals, 75,000 liters of water, 5,000 cots and 10,000 blankets and $7 million in short-term assistance to nearly 2,200 families.
Mr. Biden arrived in Lake Tahoe on Friday evening and made no public appearances other than attending Mass at a local church on Saturday evening. He is staying by a Nevada lake in a house owned by billionaire climate investor Tom Steyer, who lost the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination to Mr. Biden. White House officials said the president is renting the home for “fair market value” but did not disclose details.
A week after a special counsel was appointed to investigate the president’s son, several family members, including Dr. Biden and Hunter Biden, have stayed with him.
The Maui wildfires weren’t the only natural disaster the White House monitored on Sunday. Tropical Storm Hillary made landfall in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and rain began falling in Southern California hours after a 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck northwest of Los Angeles.
Mr. Biden spoke with California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday about the tropical storm, aides said.