KIHEI, Hawaii: US Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Deanne Criswell said on Sunday (Aug 20) that President Joe Biden will reassure the people of Lahaina that they will be in control of how they rebuild when he visits the razed Maui community on Monday.
The president along with the first lady plan to visit the historic Hawaiian town and meet with first responders, local officials and victims and get a firsthand look at the widespread devastation, Criswell said on CNN’s State Of The Union show.
“He’s going to be able to reassure the people of Maui that the federal government is there to support them, but we’re doing it in a way that’s going to allow them to rebuild the way they want to rebuild,” she said.
The wildfires incinerated the town of Lahaina on Aug 8, destroying 2,200 homes and businesses and leaving hundreds unaccounted for. As of Sunday morning, 114 people were confirmed dead.
In a separate interview on ABC’s This Week programme on Sunday, Criswell said search efforts in Lahaina town are 78 per cent complete and that victims have received more than US$8 million in federal assistance.
Biden has faced criticism from Republicans for not speaking publicly about the tragedy until five days after it occurred. Criswell said she was in communication in the days that followed the wildfires, helping Biden understand the magnitude of the situation and what resources were needed.
“He directed me to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help the people of Maui and to bring in all of the federal resources to help with this immediate response,” she said.
The cause of the fires has not yet been determined pending the results of an official investigation.