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Biden says he will visit Hawaii ‘as soon as we can’ amid criticism to Maui wildfire response

President Biden said Tuesday he and first lady Jill Biden would visit Hawaii, though he gave no timeline to do so amid criticism he has faced over his response to wildfires that have devastated the island of Maui.

“My wife Jill and I are going to travel to Hawaii as soon as we can. That’s what I’ve been talking to the governor about; I don’t want to get in the way. I’ve been to too many disaster areas,” Biden said at the top of remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act in Wisconsin. 

“But I want to go, make sure we’ve got everything they need. Want to make sure we don’t disrupt the ongoing recovery efforts,” he added.

He called the wildfires “devastating” and noted that it has taken the lives of 99 people, making it the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in a century. Biden said he has “reassured” Hawaii that it will have everything it needs from the federal government.

“It’s painstaking work, it takes time, and its nerve wracking,” Biden said.

“All that area they’ve got to plow up, they can’t do it now because they don’t know how many bodies are in there; they don’t know what’s left,” he added.

On his way to Wisconsin, Biden spoke by phone with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and Hawaii Gov. Josh Green. He noted in his comments that Criswell was on the ground over the weekend.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Hawaii. But not just our prayers, every asset, every asset they need will be there for them. And we’ll be there in Maui as long as it takes,” Biden said.

Earlier on Tuesday, principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton said the White House is “currently having active conversations about when a visit to Hawaii might be possible.”

Biden has faced criticism for not giving remarks on the devastation in Maui sooner and for responding “no comment” Sunday when asked about the rising death toll. The White House blew off criticism Monday about Biden being on vacation over the weekend during the crisis. 

Meanwhile, former President Trump called Biden’s response to the wildfire “disgraceful” and said that his successor “refuses to help or comment on the tragedy in Maui.”

Almost 500 federal personnel have been deployed to Maui as of Tuesday, and Biden signed a major disaster declaration Thursday.

Source: The Hill

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