In the wake of the deadly wildfires that have struck Hawaii, US President Joe Biden has announced his intention to travel to the state.
However, his decision has been met with criticism due to the timing of his response and its potential impact on ongoing relief efforts.
Delays in Presidential Visit
President Biden has acknowledged that he has yet to visit Hawaii, the location of the most devastating wildfire in the US in over a century.
He cited concerns that his visit could divert essential resources and attention away from the urgent humanitarian response required by the situation.
The death toll from the wildfires currently stands at 106, with an expected increase as 1,300 individuals remain missing.
Backlash and “No Comment” Response
President Biden has faced backlash for his initial response to the fires.
Reporters pressed him on the rising death toll, to which he replied, “I have no comment.”
This response was met with criticism, further fueling the public’s concerns regarding the speed and effectiveness of the disaster response.
Plans to Visit Hawaii
In a speech delivered in Wisconsin, President Biden addressed his plans to visit Hawaii.
He stated that he and his wife, Jill, are planning to travel to the state “as soon as we can.”
Despite his desire to ensure the affected areas have all necessary support, Biden expressed caution about not hindering ongoing relief efforts through his visit.
Federal Resources for Recovery
President Biden emphasized the commitment of “all available federal assets” to the recovery efforts in the region.
This includes the involvement of the US military and Coast Guard in aiding the recovery process.
He recognized the challenges involved in recovery work, describing it as “painstaking” and nerve-wracking.”
Identification of Victims and Ongoing Efforts
Officials have started identifying victims of the wildfires, with the first names being released.
Among those named were Robert Dyckman and Buddy Jantoc, both from the town of Lahaina.
The process of identifying victims has been supported by a mobile morgue unit, deployed by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Hawaii Governor Josh Green has warned that more bodies may be found, with significant areas yet to be searched.
The devastation in Lahaina has resulted in a substantial number of buildings being destroyed, and Green acknowledged that the victims include children.
Challenges in Fire Containment
While some of the wildfires have been partially contained, others continue to burn.
The cause of the fires is under investigation.
The fire that ravaged Lahaina has been reported to be 85% contained, while another blaze known as the Upcountry fire is 60% contained.
Toxic By-products and Ongoing Concerns
Authorities have warned of potential toxic by-products that could persist even after the flames have been controlled.
This includes concerns about toxins in drinking water, which may prevent residents from safely returning to their homes.
The aftermath of the wildfires poses a long-lasting challenge that extends beyond the immediate fire response efforts.