Hawaii wildfires: Biden vows immediate aid, deploys military to assist victims

An aerial view of a wildfire in Kihei, Maui County, Hawaii, U.S., August 8, 2023 in this screen grab obtained from a social media video.

Clint Hansen Of Maui Real Estate | Via Reuters

President Joe Biden on Thursday vowed immediate assistance for Maui residents who have lost loved ones and their homes in devastating wildfires that have taken 36 lives.

Biden declared a major disaster in Hawaii two days after wildfires rapidly swept across parts of Maui, devastating the historic city of Lahaina, the former capital when the islands were an independent kingdom.

“We have just approved a major disaster declaration for Hawaii which will get aid into the hands of the people desperately, desperately needing help now,” the president said during remarks in Utah.

Anyone who’s lost a loved one, whose home has been damaged or destroyed, is going to get help immediately,” Biden said.

This graphic shows the location of fires on the island of Maui, Hawaii, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023. Several thousand Hawaii residents raced to escape homes on Maui as the Lahaina fire swept across the island, killing multiple people and burning parts of a centuries-old town.


The president has ordered the military to the island to help fight the blaze and evacuate people out of harms way. The Navy’s Third Fleet, the Army and the U.S. Coast are being deployed to assist local emergency response crews, Biden said. The Marines are providing Black Hawk helicopters to help fight the fires.

“We’re working as quickly as possible,” the president said. “We’ll fight these fires and evacuate residents and tourists. In the meantime, our prayers [are] with the people of Hawaii. But not just our prayers, every asset we have will be available to them.”

Biden said he directed FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to streamline requests to get federal aid to survivors without delay. Criswell will travel to Maui on Friday, the president said.

The disaster declaration that Biden issued Thursday will provide money to help with temporary housing, home repairs and uninsured property losses.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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