Biden Approves Disaster Declaration for Hawaii as ‘Number of Dead Continues to Rise’

A wildfire burns in Kihei, Hawaii late Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. Thousands of residents raced to escape homes on Maui as blazes swept across the island, destroying parts of a centuries-old town in one of the deadliest U.S. wildfires in recent years. (Ty O'Neil/AP)
Ty O'Neil/AP

President Joe Biden on Thursday approved a disaster declaration for Hawaii following devastating wildfires which have claimed the lives of dozens of people and completely obliterated the coastal city of Maui’s Lahaina.

“Today, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Hawaii and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires beginning on August 8, 2023, and continuing,” an announcement from the White House reads, explaining that the declaration essentially unlocks aid from the federal government, providing funding to “affected individuals in Maui County.”

WATCH — Hurricane-Fueled Wildfires Engulf Maui, Hawaii, Forcing Evacuations

“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the White House announcement reads, adding that federal funding is also available to aid “state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures in Maui County, and assistance for emergency protective measures for Hawaii County.”

“Lastly, Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide,” it adds, noting that additional forms of assistance could be on the horizon following an initial assessment of the damage.

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Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) on Thursday thanked Biden for acting quickly on this matter.

“Recovering from these devastating fires will take significant time and resources, and we need all the federal support we can get,” he said in a statement, adding that it will “unlock federal resources and help our state and county governments respond to and recover from these fires and help the people of Maui and Hawai’i Island.”

The disaster declaration comes as the fires have claimed the lives of at least 36 individuals. Images show the devastation inflicted upon Maui’s Lahaina, which some have described as a “war zone.”

VIDEO — Hawaii Rescue & Firefighters’ Efforts! Choppers Work to Put Out Hawaii Blaze

“HNL-OGG to assess damage w @fema and @GovJoshGreenMD and others,” Schatz said in a Thursday afternoon update, reporting that the “number of dead continues to rise” and that operations remain “ongoing.”


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