President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have decided not to visit Maui following the severe wildfires. Their intention is to avoid diverting attention and resources from the critical rescue operations, especially with about 1,000 individuals still missing.
“We wish to ensure that resources are directed towards those impacted by this catastrophe, and the primary focus of the first responders remains on the crisis, rather than on us,” Harris commented as she prepared to depart for Chicago, according to CSPAN.
The federal government is actively channeling support for recovery efforts on the ground. The tragic incident has deeply moved Harris and Biden, causing at least 55 fatalities and significant damage to an historically significant area. On Thursday, CNN mentioned that Biden had declared the area a federal disaster zone.
To assist the affected, the federal authorities have dispatched food and water to sustain approximately 5,000 individuals for a span of five days, as confirmed on Friday.
Ongoing search and rescue operations indicate that the count of missing persons stands at around 1,000, as reported by KTVU FOX 2. On the TODAY Show, Mayor Richard Bissen of Maui County expressed fears that the death toll might rise, especially considering only those found outside buildings are currently accounted for.
The immediate focus is on assessing the damage to burned structures. Alongside the missing and deceased, thousands were forced to evacuate their homes due to the encroaching flames. Distressing footage captures individuals, including families with young children, seeking refuge in the sea while surrounded by ash and falling debris.
The rescue and relief activities face challenges due to extensive power and communication disruptions. “West Maui is currently inaccessible due to communication and power breakdowns,” reported Lauren Henrie from Maui Rescue Mission to CNN, emphasizing that the recovery process might span several years.
In contrast to the decision by Biden and Harris to abstain from visiting the affected area, Oprah Winfrey has been observed assisting at a relief center. The media icon, who resides part-time in Maui, contributed supplies and offered support to the evacuees at the War Memorial Stadium in Wailuku on Thursday.