Biden Says He’ll Visit Maui ‘Soon’
Residents of a Hawaiian town that has been decimated by the deadliest wildfire in the United States in over a century are yet to be allowed back into the disaster zone and voice their frustrations over the lack of preparedness and response from the authorities.
The death toll since the fire ripped through the historic town of Lahaina has now reached 106 as President Joe Biden said he will travel to the area "soon".
State governor Josh Green has warned that the death toll could rise even higher and urged people to brace for a figure two or three times its present level, as Breitbart News reported.
Maui County officials updated the death toll to 106 with Green saying over a quarter of the area had been searched by trained dogs sniffing for bodies. Just two of the victims have been named so far, and the County said it had identified three more and will name them after notifying the next of kin.
Biden said he will offer “thoughts and prayers” alongside assistance for survivors and provided further details of his impending visit.
Meanwhile, desperate residents attempting to return to the disaster zone have been met with resistance, as authorities warned them of unstable buildings and potential airborne toxic chemicals in the area.
One arrest was reportedly made for trespassing, and the police placard system that was set up to let people back into the town descended into chaos Monday, suspended just one hour after it started.
“The miscommunication is abysmal — people are very angry and frustrated, and this is getting worse,” said Stephen Van Bueren, 42, a local church pastor who waited for more than an hour for a placard without success.
Questions are now being raised about authorities' preparedness and response to the tragedy, with reports that fire hydrants ran dry in the initial stages and multiple warning systems either failed or were not activated.
A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Hawaiian Electric, the state's biggest power firm, claiming the company should have shut off its power lines to curb the risk of fire.
The human toll of the devastating inferno will undoubtedly have wide-reaching implications for the people of Lahaina. As residents await the chance to return home, they will be keeping a keen eye on Biden's 'indication of a visit soon'. In the meantime, they can only rely on his “thoughts and prayers” in the hope for justice and a return to normality.