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Biden was expected in Hawaii after criticism of his handling of the fire

Biden was expected in Hawaii after criticism of his handling of the fire

Joe Biden is expected in Hawaii on Monday, where search operations continue on the island of Maui, amid criticism of authorities’ handling of the drama from the devastating fire that killed more than a hundred people two weeks ago.

Few details were released about the timing of his visit, but the White House said the president will meet with families, emergency workers and local officials. He will be accompanied by his wife Jill Biden.

Dean Criswell, head of the federal agency responsible for natural disasters (FEMA), told CNN Sunday that he “can see” the effects of the fire and “feel the devastation in this community.” “He can assure the people of Maui that the federal government is there to support them. »

The visit came after sharp criticism from Republican officials, who said the president had been too quiet about the scale of the disaster. He did not speak publicly when the number rose significantly.

The White House, for its part, insisted that Joe Biden had been in “close contact” with Hawaii Governor Josh Green, a Democrat, and received regular updates on the situation.

The president quickly declared a state of natural disaster in Hawaii, allowing the dispatch of emergency relief resources from the federal government.

There are more than 1,000 federal employees on Maui, and 50,000 meals have been distributed by Fema, the administrator said.

Presidential picture

But criticism relates to the response of local authorities.

The president’s visit comes days after the head of Maui’s crisis management organization resigned after being accused of not sounding warning sirens during a wildfire that destroyed the West Coast town of Lahaina (population 12,000). Island.

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Some of the shocked residents jumped into the sea to escape the fire.

“Would I have liked the sirens to sound?” Of course,” Gov. Josh Green said Sunday, while explaining that they were “historically” not used for fires, but for tsunamis and hurricanes.

Faced with a sense of abandonment, Joe Biden must not repeat the mistakes of his predecessors. If these post-disaster visits are necessary, they risk distracting relief efforts and harming the president’s image.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, President George W. The photo of Bush flying became a symbol of a disconnected administration.

Donald Trump was filmed casually tossing out paper towel rolls during a 2017 visit to Puerto Rico after the hurricane.

114 deaths

At this time, 114 deaths were confirmed in Hawaii, the worst wildfire in the United States in more than a century. And the final balance may be too heavy.

Another 1,000 are missing.

About 85% of the affected area was covered by “an army” of rescuers and sniffer dogs, searching for bodies in the rubble, Josh Green said Sunday. Closing the remaining 15% could take “weeks” because these are large buildings whose structures must be destroyed.

Few bodies have been identified so far.

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the fire. Some suspect the role of power lines.

Power supplier Hawaiian Electric is accused of failing to turn off power, causing utility poles to fall amid strong winds and worsening the situation.

Beyond human error, Josh Green named another culprit, relying on the increasing number of fires in the archipelago: “Let’s be clear, climate change is here, and we’re okay with it. »

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According to scientists, invasive plants that have grown on the island for decades, which are highly resistant to drought but highly flammable, have contributed to the rapid spread of fires.

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