Biden says “every asset” will be available as Maui battles deadly wildfires
President Joe Biden, speaking of the deadly wildfires in Maui, said a new disaster declaration would “get help into the hands of the people who need help most right now.”
“Our prayers are with the people of Hawaii, but not just our prayers,” Biden said. “Every asset we have will be there for them. They’ve seen their homes or businesses destroyed, some have lost loved ones, and it’s not over yet.”
Dozens have died, hundreds of buildings have been destroyed and cultural monuments have been damaged as a result of the fires.
Prior to 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 state and local governments to clear debris and put in place preventative measures.
“Anyone who has lost a loved one, whose home has been damaged or destroyed, will get help right away,” said Biden, who appeared from Salt Lake City as part of a three-state lightning campaign to tout the policy’s achievements.
The White House said Biden held a phone call with Hawaii Governor Josh Green, during which he offered his condolences for the lives lost and the destruction of the Earth.
The president said he told Green he would make sure “the country has everything the federal government needs to recover.”
FEMA Administrator Dean Creswell 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 ravage the island of Hawaii. Adam Weintraub, chief of communications for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, told “Good Morning America” that they fear that number could go up.
The wildfire, which broke out early Tuesday morning, was fueled by extremely dry conditions and strong winds. As of Thursday, there were three active fires that were not contained, according to Mahina Martin, Maui County Chief of Communications and Public Affairs.
A federal team arrived in Maui on Wednesday to assist with search and rescue efforts.
On Thursday, Biden said he directed increased support for firefighters and first responders “who are working around the clock and risking their lives” to fight the blaze.
More than 270 buildings have been affected so far, and thousands have been without power in the past several days. Hundreds of people camped out for the night at Kahului Airport as they tried to leave the island.
Historic Lahaina, a popular tourist destination and one-time capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, was particularly devastated by the fire.
Officials said it could take years for Maui to fully recover.
“Our beautiful island has been ravaged by fires from mountain to ocean,” Pamela Tambab, president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce, told ABC News Live.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com