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Biden tours 'overwhelming' devastation in Maui: 'The country grieves with you'

President Biden on Monday mourned the loss of life and destruction in Maui and vowed to aid rebuilding efforts in the wake of historic wildfires that have decimated the island.

The president and first lady traveled to Maui from Lake Tahoe, Nev., where they were vacationing this week, to tour damage, meet with local officials and first responders and offer support for the community.

“You’ve shown such absolute incredible courage, and that’s not hyperbole,” Biden said as he stood in front of scorched wreckage from the fires. “And I want you to know that on behalf of the United States of America and all of the nation, the American people stand with you.”

Biden called the devastation from the fires “overwhelming,” noting that the death toll is at 114 and counting, with hundreds of people unaccounted for as of Monday.

“I also want all of you to know the country grieves with you, stands with you and will do everything possible to help you recover, rebuild and respect culture and traditions when the rebuilding takes place,” Biden said.

He pointed to a nearby banyan tree that was burned but still standing, describing it as a “very powerful symbol of what we can and will do to get through this crisis.”

“And for as long as it takes, we’re going to be with you. The whole country will be with you,” Biden said.

As part of his visit, Biden announced the appointment of Bob Fenton as the chief federal response coordinator to oversee the long-term recovery effort.

Fenton previously served as the White House’s coordinator for the monkeypox response as the virus spread in the United States last year. Fenton previously worked on setting up mass vaccination sites in the COVID-19 response.  

Biden has signed a major disaster declaration for Hawaii to open up additional federal funds for rebuilding efforts, and more than 1,000 federal personnel are on the ground in Maui. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has made more than 50,000 meals, 75,000 liters of water and 10,000 blankets available to local officials for distribution as those on the island find temporary shelter.

Source: The Hill

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