(The Hill) – President Biden will travel to Maui next week to meet with first responders and tour damage from catastrophic wildfires on the island, the White House announced Wednesday.
“In Maui, the President and First Lady will be welcomed by state and local leaders to see firsthand the impacts of the wildfires and the devastating loss of life and land that has occurred on the island, as well as discuss the next steps in the recovery effort,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
The death toll from the wildfires has topped 100 and is expected to rise, according to local officials. Homes and businesses across the island were destroyed, and witnesses have described watching people flee into the ocean to try to escape the flames.
“The President continues to marshal a whole-of-government response to the deadly Maui fires, and he has committed to delivering everything that the people of Hawaii need from the federal government as they recover from this disaster,” Jean-Pierre said.
The National Fire Protection Association said the Maui wildfires are the deadliest in the U.S. in more than 100 years.
Biden spoke last Thursday about the devastation in Maui, but he faced criticism after not giving any additional public remarks on the crisis until a Tuesday stop in Wisconsin. Biden spent the weekend in Delaware, prompting backlash from Republicans who accused the president of not doing more to address the situation.
The White House had said Biden would look at visiting the island when it was logistically possible and he would not interfere with rescue and recovery efforts. Officials have noted that almost 500 federal personnel have been deployed to Maui as of Tuesday, and Biden signed a major disaster declaration Thursday to provide additional assistance.
The president spoke on the phone Tuesday with Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to stay up to date on the response to the fires.
At the top of economic remarks in Milwaukee, Biden called the wildfires “devastating” and noted that it had claimed the lives of at least 99 people at the time, making it the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in a century. Biden said he has “reassured” Hawaii that it will have everything it needs from the federal government.