Aug 22, 2023
President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden toured western Maui on Monday. They visited to survey the havoc wrought by wildfires. The fires have killed at least 114 people. Much of the seaside town of Lahaina has been destroyed.
The Bidens arrived as over 1,000 federal emergency workers fanned out across the area. The workers will search for survivors. They will also provide displaced residents water, food, blankets, and cots. $7 million in short-term assistance will be given to survivors. Biden promised more help is on the way. He named a top federal emergency official to coordinate recovery efforts. These efforts will span the coming months.
Biden gave a prepared statement. He said that he knows how greatly loss can impact a family and a community. "I know nothing can replace the loss of life,” he stated. Biden promised to do everything he can to help Maui recover and rebuild.
On August 8, fires swept through the historic seaport town. The Bidens arrived nearly two weeks later. The perceived delay fueled criticism from local residents. Political opponents have expressed similar reproofs. They complain that the federal and state governments were sluggish in responding to the disaster.
Nearly 850 people are still missing from the fires. It could exceed $5 billion to rebuild. This includes the cost of restoring Lahaina.
The Bidens’ visit occurs when many other wildfires are ravaging lands. 456 wildfires are burning across a dozen western US states. A rash of fires in northwestern Canada are forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. Data from a national fire center reports a striking figure. US firefighters in 2023 have battled as many as 36,000 fires. That's 15,000 more than were recorded by this point in 2022.
Photo from Reuters.
Reflect: Do you think it is important for the president to visit areas affected by disasters, and what do you think his role is in helping communities recover?
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