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Joe Biden visits fire-ravaged Maui amid criticism

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden have visited the fire-ravaged island of Maui, addressing criticism of their response to the wildfire crisis that left at least 114 dead and the historic town of Lahaina devastated. Arriving 13 days after the wildfires, President Biden toured the damaged areas and conveyed the federal government’s commitment to helping Maui recover.

During his visit, President Biden expressed his solidarity with the affected community: “The country is suffering with you, is with you and will do everything possible to help you recover.” Standing next to a 150-year-old banyan tree in Old Lahaina, which had survived the fires, Biden symbolized resilience and unity. He stated: “The tree survived for a reason. I think it is a very powerful symbol of what we can and will do to overcome this crisis.”

The president’s response comes amid criticism, including former Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard comparing the response to the Hawaii wildfires to U.S. support for Ukraine. Former President Donald Trump, the front-runner among Republicans for the upcoming presidential election, also criticized Biden’s handling of the crisis.

While facing such criticism, the White House defended Biden’s actions, highlighting his ongoing communication with local officials during the unfolding crisis. According to Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), more than $8.5 million in aid has already been distributed to affected families.

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden spent most of their visit in the devastated town of Lahaina. They met with first responders, received briefings from state and local officials and participated in a blessing from island elders. The Biden administration appointed Bob Fenton, FEMA’s regional leader, to coordinate the federal response to the Maui wildfires and lead long-term recovery efforts.

Lahaina, with its historical significance as the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, faced massive destruction from wildfires. President Biden pledged to support the reconstruction process while respecting the island’s sacred lands, cultures and traditions.

Despite ongoing efforts, the crisis remains disturbing, with hundreds missing. Senator for Hawaii, Brian Schatz, mentioned that approximately 85% of the affected area had been searched. Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said up to 850 people are missing, down from an initial count of more than 2,000. Amid these challenges, President Biden’s visit sought to offer hope and support to island communities as they grapple with the aftermath of devastating wildfires.

This article is sourced from and written by AI.

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