President Biden declares major disaster in Hawaii during SLC speech

Aug 10, 2023, 12:49 PM | Updated: 5:23 pm

President Biden speaks in front of flags of the armed forces...

President Joe Biden speaks in Salt Lake City, Utah about the PACT Act for veterans on Aug. 10, 2023. (Kira Hoffelmeyer/KSL NewsRadio)

(Kira Hoffelmeyer/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — President Joe Biden announced during a stop in Salt Lake City Thursday that he approved a major disaster declaration for Hawaii as it recovers from a series of deadly wildfires.

The president was in Utah to give an update on the PACT Act one year after Biden signed it to expand healthcare for Veterans exposed to “burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances” during their service.

The wildfires on the island of Maui have killed at least 36 people and destroyed the historic town of Lahaina.

“We have just approved a major disaster, declaration for Hawaii which will get aid in the hands of people desperately needing help now,” Biden said. “Anyone who’s lost a loved one, whose home has been damaged and destroyed is going to get help immediately. And I’ve directed that we support these brave firefighters and first responders and emergency personnel working around the clock there risking their lives.”

The President said he told Hawaii Gov. Josh Green this morning that he will make sure Hawaii has everything it needs from the federal government.

Biden said a FEMA administrator will be in Maui Friday with a directive to streamline any process and request for help so survivors can register for federal assistance ‘without delay.’

“I’ve ordered all available federal assets on the island including the US Coast Guard, the Navy third fleet, and the US Army to assist local emergency response crews along with the Hawaiian National Guard,” President Biden added. “We’re working as quickly as possible to fight these fires and evacuate residents and tourists.” 

The fire took the island by surprise, leaving behind burned-out cars on once-busy streets and smoking piles of rubble where historic buildings had stood in Lahaina Town, which dates to the 1700s and has long been a favorite destination for tourists. 

“In the meantime, our prayers are with the people of Hawaii,” Biden said. “But not just our prayers, every asset we have will be available to them, and they’ve seen their homes and businesses destroyed and some have lost loved ones and it’s not over  yet.”

Residents can log on to disasterassistance.gov to learn if they are eligible for assistance.

KSL TV is joining in a fundraiser for the “Maui Strong: Fire Relief Fund” to raise money for the Hawaii Community FoundationHawaii Community Foundation, including a $15,000 donation from parent company Bonneville International; 100% of the money we receive will go directly to help the people in Maui.


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President Biden declares major disaster in Hawaii during SLC speech