(WASHINGTON) — Amid remarks on the Pact Act, President Joe Biden addresses the devastating wildfires in Hawaii.
President Joe Biden, speaking on the deadly Maui wildfires, said a new disaster declaration will “get aid in the hands of people desperately needing help now.”
“Our prayers are with the people of Hawaii, but not just our prayers,” Biden said. “Every asset we have will be available to them. They’ve seen their homes or businesses destroyed, and some have lost loved ones, and it’s not over yet.”
Dozens of people have died, hundreds of structures have been destroyed and cultural landmarks have been damaged as a result of the fires.
Before his remarks, Biden approved an emergency declaration to make federal funding available to help those affected in Maui County. The money can be used for temporary housing, home repairs and other programs as well as for state and local governments to remove debris and to institute protective measures.
“Anyone who’s lost a loved one, whose home has been damaged or destroyed, is going to get help immediately,” Biden said, appearing from Salt Lake City as part of a three-state blitz to tout policy achievements.
Biden had a phone call with Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, the White House said, during which he offered his condolences for the lives lost and destruction of land.
The president said he let Green know he will make sure “the state has everything it needs the federal government to recover.”
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell will arrive in Maui Friday, Biden said, and has been directed to streamline any request for federal assistance from survivors.
The death toll has risen to 36 as fires continue to devastate the Hawaiian island. Adam Weintraub, the communications chief for Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, told “Good Morning America” they feared that number could rise.
The wildfires, which broke out early Tuesday, have been fueled by extremely dry conditions and powerful winds. As of Thursday, there were three active fires burning that were not contained, according to Mahina Martin, chief of communications and public affairs in Maui County.
A federal team arrived in Maui on Wednesday to assist with search-and-rescue efforts.
Biden said Thursday he’s directed an in increase support for firefighters and first responders “working around the clock there risking their lives” to battle the blaze.
More than 270 structures have been impacted so far, and thousands have been without power for the last several days. Hundreds of people camped out overnight in Kahului Airport as they tried to leave the island.
The historic town of Lahaina, a famous tourist destination and one-time capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, has been particularly decimated by the flames.
Officials have said it could take years for Maui to fully recover.
“Our beautiful island has been ravaged by fires from the mountain to the ocean,” Maui Chamber of Commerce President Pamela Tumpap told ABC News Live.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.