Biden says he doesn’t want to ‘get in the way’ as Hawaii death toll reaches 101

At least 101 people have been killed in the wildfires which tore through the historic town of Lahaina

Wildfire roars through Hawaii’s historic Lahaina

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President Joe Biden has said he does not want to “get in the way” of rescue work after the Hawaii wildfires following criticism of his response to the disaster.

Mr Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden “are going to travel to Hawaii as soon as we can”.

“I don’t want to get in the way,” he said, adding that recovery work being carried about by emergency responders and search and rescue teams is “painstaking work” that “takes time.”

Hawaii officials are working to identify the 101 people killed in Maui wildfires. Governor Josh Green confirmed the updated death toll on Tuesday, up from 99 earlier, after the last official update indicated that 25 per cent of the search area had been covered.

The toll is expected to continue to rise for days as hundreds of people remain missing with Mr Green predicting “10 to 20” more bodies found each day.

Meanwhile, as residents of hard-hit Lahaina return home to survey the devastation, officials have issued dire warnings about contamination that could pose health risks for months to come.

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Hawaii national guard activates hundreds of troops for rescue efforts

The Hawaii National Guard has activated about 258 Army National Guard and Air National Guard personnel to help respond to the fires.

Guard members will offer support to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and local law enforcement agencies and help with command and control efforts, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said on Tuesday.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is helping with debris removal and temporary power. The Corps has deployed 27 personnel — active duty and civilians — and 41 contractor personnel.

The US Coast Guard has shifted its focus to minimising maritime environmental impacts but is still ready to help individuals in the water.

Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu and the Coast Guard National Strike Force have established a safety zone extending one nautical mile seaward from the shoreline.

The have also deployed pollution response teams and equipment, including a 100-foot boom at the mouth of Blaina Harbour to contain any potentially hazardous contaminants and material. There are about 140 Coast Guard members aiding the response effort.

Ms Singh said she doesn’t know how many active-duty troops have responded, but said that active-duty forces will be part of the ongoing effort.

Stuti Mishra16 August 2023 06:30

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Maui wildfires death toll reaches 101, says governor

The blaze that burned through the town of Lahaina on Maui last week has killed at least 101 people, up from 99, Hawaii’s governor said on Tuesday.

“We are heartsick that we’ve had such loss,” governor Josh Green said during a news conference.

Stuti Mishra16 August 2023 06:00

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Biden says he will visit Hawaii ‘soon’ amid backlash over response

President Joe Biden said he is working with the government to find a time to visit Hawaii after the devastating wildfires – following blowback over his previous comments about the disaster.

“My wife Jill and I are going to travel to Hawaii as soon as we can,” Biden said Tuesday in Milwaukee at a White House event held to highlight his economic agenda.

“I don’t want to get in the way,” the president said, adding that recovery work being carried about by emergency responders and search and rescue teams is “painstaking work” that “takes time.”

Read more:

Stuti Mishra16 August 2023 05:30

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Rich investors exposed for trying to get Lahaina wildfire victims to sell land amid disaster

The fires in Maui, Hawaii haven’t been contained yet, but already residents of Lahaina are worried investors will try to capitalise on the disaster for land development.

The wildfires that ravaged Maui last week left a scar on towns like Lahaina, where 80 per cent of the structures in town have been damaged or destroyed.

Hawaii governor Josh Green estimated that the state has lost an estimated $5.6 billion and it could cost that just to rebuild Maui.

But while thousands of people living on the islands are trying to recover and find shelter, investors see an opportunity.

Ariana Baio reports:

Ariana Baio16 August 2023 05:00

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Biden administration goes into defence mode

The Biden administration doubled down in their defence of President Joe Biden regarding his response to the Hawaii wildfires.

While aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton began a press gaggle by giving remarks about Mr Biden’s efforts to send aid and assist those in Hawaii affected by the wildfires.

Ms Dalton listed all the federal resources the Biden administration has given to Hawaii including more than 500 federal personnel which includes FEMA personnel to assist in search and recovery efforts.

“I would also just like to add because I know many of you have asked that we’re currently having active conversations about when a visit to Hawaii might be possible,” Ms Dalton said.

Ariana Baio16 August 2023 04:00

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Oprah helps out Maui shelter by purchasing essential items

Oprah Winfrey was thanked by a Maui shelter for those affected by wildfires after instructing a news camera crew to wait outside while she visited.

The entertainment mogul and former talk show host, 69, has been providing aid for those in need after wildfires severely impacted areas in Hawaii last week.

“I’m really pleased to have so many people supporting… bringing what they can and doing what they can,” she explained on Thursday (10 August), after admitting that it was an “overwhelming” time.

“I came earlier just to see what people needed then went shopping because often, you know, you make donations of clothes or whatever and it’s not really what people need.

“So I actually went to Walmart and Costco and got pillows, shampoo, diapers, sheets, pillowcases.”

Ariana Baio16 August 2023 03:00

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ICYMI: Obama posts heartfelt video on Maui wildfires: ‘We have to step up’

Former US president Barack Obama has posted an emotional video to social media in response to the devastating Hawaii wildfires, which have already claimed at least 99 lives.

“Aloha everybody. Like so many people around the world, Michelle and I have been absolutely heartbroken by the devastating images coming out of Maui and Lahaina over the last week,” the Democrat said.

“As someone who grew up in Hawaii, as someone who has taken my family to enjoy the incredible beauty of that island and the hospitality of the people of Lahaina, we now find ourselves mourning the lives that are lost and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families that have lost so much.

He continued: “The thing about it is though, thoughts and prayers in a moment like this are not enough. We have to step up. We have to help those families and we have to help Lahaina rebuild.

“And the good news is that the Hawaii Red Cross and Malama Maui are mobilising to provide direct support to people who are desperately in need.”

Joe Sommerlad reports:

Ariana Baio16 August 2023 02:00

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Videos put scrutiny on downed power lines as possible cause of deadly Maui wildfires

Awakened by howling winds that tore through his Maui neighborhood, Shane Treu went out at dawn and saw a wooden power pole suddenly snap with a flash, its sparking, popping line falling to the dry grass below and quickly igniting a row of flames.

He called 911 and then turned on Facebook video to livestream his attempt to fight the blaze in Lahaina, including wetting down his property with a garden hose.

“I heard ‘buzz, buzz,’” the 49-year-old resort worker recounted to The Associated Press. “It was almost like somebody lit a firework. It just ran straight up the hill to a bigger pile of grass and then, with that high wind, that fire was blazing.”

Treu’s video and others captured the early moments of what would become the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. Now the footage has emerged as key evidence pointing to fallen utility lines as the possible cause. Hawaiian Electric Co. faces criticism for not shutting off the power amid high wind warnings and keeping it on even as dozens of poles began to topple.

A class-action lawsuit has already been filed seeking to hold the company responsible for the deaths of at least 99 people. The suit cites the utility’s own documents showing it was aware that preemptive power shutoffs such as those used in California were an effective strategy to prevent wildfires but never adopted them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Ariana Baio16 August 2023 01:00

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American Airlines evacuated more than 4200 people

A total of 21 flights from the Kahului Airport to Maui, Hawaii has carried more than 4,200 to safety, American Airlines said in an update on Monday.

Airlines like American Airlines have been doing their part to help evacuate visitors from the island and provide relief in the form of necessities to residents of Maui who lost everything in the severe fires.

Ariana Baio16 August 2023 00:00

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How the Maui wildfires became fodder for conspiracy theorists

When Joe Biden announced the federal government’s latest aid package to families left homeless by the Maui wildfires on Monday, a seemingly innocuous turn of phrase sent conspiracists into meltdown.

“We’re laser-focused on getting aid to survivors,” the president wrote, apparently unaware of the bogus claims circulating on social media of space lasers being used to deliberately start the wildfires that swept through Maui on 8 August.

As with nearly every traumatic event, from natural disasters to school shootings, fake theories that sprung up immediately online followed a familiar narrative of climate change denial, government cover-up and in some cases antisemitic tropes.

Read more:

Bevan Hurley15 August 2023 23:30

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