Angry Hawaiians greeted President Joe Biden with signs urging him to go home and calling for more federal disaster relief as the 80-year-old and his wife toured the island of Maui 13 days after the devastating wildfires.
The route of the president's motorcade was lined with people giving thumbs down and some waving Trump 2024 flags.
One Person had posted a sign comparing money spent in Ukraine to aid sent to Hawaii — and calculated that every Ukrainian has received over $1,700 since war broke out in February 2022.
The White House has announced that each affected household in Hawaii will receive $700 – a sum many islanders find offensive.
Locals were particularly furious with Biden when asked about the fires last Sunday as he left a Delaware beach one afternoon, and replied, “No comment.”
President Biden told Maui the nation “mourns with you” as he visited the island for the first time since wildfires devastated the city of Lahaina and the surrounding community
Biden hugs Hawaii Governor Josh Green
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, along with Hawaii Governor Josh Green and his wife Jaime Green, look at a burned car while visiting areas devastated by the Maui wildfires
Even Democrats wanted to know why federal aid had been slow to arrive, joining their Republican counterparts in questioning Biden's delay in arriving in Maui.
Biden broke his Lake Tahoe vacation Monday to fly a five-hour flight to the island, stressing that the federal government is there for islanders.
While the death toll on Maui has surpassed 114, about 850 remain unaccounted for.
“The devastation is overwhelming, 114 people have died so far,” Biden said, before beginning a lengthy anecdote about the loss of his first wife, Naomi, and their one-year-old daughter in a 1972 car accident.
“We are focused on what's next, which is rebuilding a long-term, long-term rebuild and doing it together to help us get back on our feet and rebuild the way we want to rebuild ‘ Biden told the crowd while charred debris lay in his background.
“By making sure your voices are heard, by respecting your traditions, by understanding the deep history and meaning of sacred ground, and building your community not to change its character, but to restore it.”
“We will also bring the skills to help you rebuild.” So your critical infrastructure is more resilient in the future.”
He also praised “stories of hope and heroism of the Aloha spirit.”
Biden had landed in Kahalui hours earlier.
Biden visited those who lost their homes and loved ones during the disaster and was briefed by officials.
The White House said it continued to receive briefings over the weekend after Biden made a series of public statements about the disaster following his early stumbles.
The president appeared more somber in tone when he met with local officials when he told a reporter he had “no comment” on the devastation caused by the inferno as he relaxed at his beach house in Delaware last Sunday.
Last week, he seemed to have forgotten the name Maui, repeatedly referring to roaring fires on “the big island.”
People hold up signs as US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visit the fire-ravaged city of Lahaina
People watch as the motorcade carrying President Joe Biden drives by to visit areas devastated by Maui's wildfires
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden walk with Hawaii Governor Josh Green and his wife Jaime Green as they visit areas devastated by the Maui wildfires
The Bidens paused their summer vacation at Lake Tahoe in Nevada on Monday to visit Hawaii
People watch as the motorcade carrying President Joe Biden drives by to visit areas devastated by Maui's wildfires. A local gives the President a thumbs down
The death toll of 114 people already makes the inferno one of the deadliest in the country's history – and an estimated 1,000 people are still missing. Officials are still analyzing the factors that contributed to the massive inferno, including problems with the power grid.
The president has left a quieter environment — he's renting the home of billionaire former presidential candidate and climate activist Tom Steyer on the east side of Lake Tahoe.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden greet Hawaii Governor Josh Green (center) upon arrival at Kahului Airport in Kahului, Hawaii
Biden (R) hugs Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (2nd R) upon arrival at Kahului Airport in Kahului
Biden and First Lady Jill interrupted their summer vacation at Lake Tahoe in Nevada on Monday to visit Hawaii
He was accompanied on the holiday by his son Hunter, who was struggling with his settlement falling over tax allegations and whose investigation is now being overseen by US Attorney David Weiss in the role of special counsel.
After being criticized on the beach for not commenting, Biden repeatedly made references to the tragedy.
He spoke at Camp David about the financial contributions from Japan and South Korea announced at the summit, and then boarded Marine One for his voyage to Nevada.
“First, I want to express my appreciation for the contribution your countries have made to alleviating the devastating wildfires in Hawaii.” “I want to thank you both on behalf of the American people,” he said. Biden also said FEMA is preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Hilary in Southern California.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden take a scenic flight on Marine One over areas devastated by Maui's wildfires
President Joe Biden leaves Lake Tahoe to visit victims of Maui's devastating wildfires. Here he leaves Our Lady of Tahoe Catholic Church in Zephyr Cove, Nevada, on August 19
Biden lives in the house of climate investor Tom Steyer. The White House said he was renting it at fair market value
Biden leaves Lake Tahoe Monday morning, then flies to Hawaii and plans to return the same day
President Joe Biden thanked Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for their countries' contributions to Hawaii relief
An estimated 1,000 people are still missing and the death toll is over 100. Biden plans to tour some of the devastation in Lahaina
On Thursday, during a recorded message aired on ABC's Good Morning America, he vowed to offer help to Maui “as long as it lasts.”
“The entire nation is with you as you recover, rebuild and mourn,” he said.
The wildfire that broke out in the city of Lahaina on August 8 is now the deadliest in more than a century and the fifth-biggest on record for the United States
“We will be with you for as long as necessary, I promise you,” the president added. He pointed out that the federal government has already taken action to send hundreds of rescue workers and thousands of meals and supplies to the historic tourist city devastated by the flames.
Before Biden announced his visit, Republicans compared his lack of a visit to East Palestine, Ohio — where a train derailed and toxic chemicals spilled, displacing hundreds of people. Biden had promised to visit the Ohio city but never did.
Former President Donald Trump and other Republicans have attacked him. Trump said he refused to “support or comment on the tragedy” and called the moment “terrible and unacceptable.”
Search operations in wildfire damaged areas in the city of Lahaina destroyed in the Maui wildfires in Lahaina, Maui on August 15
Biden first issued “no comment” while on the beach near his home in Delaware.
Then, while walking past reporters, he made a terse remark that he had “looked at it.”
Back at the White House, a reporter asked Biden at the White House, “Can you tell us about your trip to Hawaii?”
“No, not now,” Biden said, before staff finally released details.
The call came at a time when Biden might have wished for a little more distance from the press following the appointment of his son's special counsel.
Biden and the First Lady are traveling to Maui on Monday to offer comfort to the bereaved the devastating forest fires that rocked the western part of the Hawaiian island earlier this month as his government responded to the devastation, the full extent of which is still unknown.
The Bidens are taking a detour from their week-long vacation in the Lake Tahoe area and taking a day trip to Lahaina. a historical city 13,000 people nearly died in the flames. There, the first couple will meet with first responders and be briefed by state and local officials on the ongoing deployment.
You will also tour the damaged city, both from helicopters and from the ground, and the Democratic President will deliver a speech paying tribute to the victims of the wildfires killed more than 100 people since they started on August 8th.
The President will also appoint Bob Fenton, a regional head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as chief coordinator for the federal response to the Maui wildfires and ensure someone in his administration is in charge of long-term recovery efforts. It will take years to rebuild Lahaina, where almost every building has been destroyed.
“I know how profoundly a loss can affect a family and a community, and I know that nothing can replace the loss of life,” Biden said in a statement ahead of the trip. “I will do everything in my power to help Maui recover and rebuild from this tragedy.” And in all our efforts, we focus on respect for sacred lands, cultures and traditions.”
Sen. brian darling, D-Hawaii, said as of Sunday about 85% of the affected area had been searched and nearly 2,000 people remained without power and 10,000 without a telecommunications connection. Water is undrinkable in parts of West Maui.
While emergency relief such as water, food and blankets were readily distributed to residents, cellphones, ID cards and other documents people would need to enroll in longer-term aid programs were burned in the fires, Schatz said, adding further challenges to the application process.
According to the White House, more than 1,000 federal officers are still on the ground in Hawaii to respond to the wildfires. The government has provided more than $8 million in relief funds to affected families.
Schatz, who will accompany Biden while the president travels to his home state Monday, stressed that officials were “still responding to the disaster” and “we are not yet in a recovery phase.”
“As bad as it looks, it's actually worse,” he said in a phone interview on Sunday. “What you can't see is the damage to the utility infrastructure.” What you can't see are the thousands of children trying to figure out how to get to school this fall. What you don't see are the first responders who, with no regard for their own safety, went into the flames and allowed their own homes to burn down.”
While Holidays in Lake TahoeBiden has been on the phone regularly with officials to get updates on wildfire response, the White House said.