The president and first lady are set to land in Maui on Monday to survey the damage and console distraught residents as Hawaii Gov. Josh Green says more than 1,000 people are still unaccounted for and locals worry they could be without power for many weeks.
Former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Michael Brown slammed Biden’s apparently dispassionate reaction, saying, “Let’s differentiate the response from Biden’s response because Biden’s response is an abject failure: ‘no comment’?”
However, Green defended the administration, saying the president was sending aid within hours of a phone call about the wildfires.
“I’ve spoken to Gov. Josh Green multiple times and reassured him the state will have everything it needs from the federal government,” Biden said.
FEMA confirms more than 1,000 federal personnel, including 450 search and rescue teams, are on the ground in Maui assisting with relief efforts. Currently, about 85% of the impacted area has already been searched.
Now, the people of Maui are calling for better communication in what many describe as “mishaps” and “messes” in the days following the wildfires, including answers as to why the emergency sirens were not used.
The head of Maui’s emergency management agency resigned after he defended not using the island’s siren system last week.
While Gov. Green said he wishes the sirens were used, he also pointed out the possible danger they could have posed.
“Sirens in Hawaii typically are used for tsunamis. If we had run the sirens according to the team that was supposed to make that decision, it is just as likely, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have done it, but it is just as likely people would have come out of their houses and gone up the mountain, right into the fire,” Green told NewsNation anchor Chris Cuomo.
Hawaii attorney general Anne Lopez said she will launch an independent investigation into the state’s response.
Meanwhile, misinformation is spreading among locals in the chaos of the aftermath. Some social media posts are deterring people from accepting federal aid, by claiming FEMA could seize their properties.
“They are in devastation right now. They’re suffering. They will listen to anything. They are just grasping (to) you know, whatever communication is coming out, but it is not true. FEMA is there to help and they are not going to take away your land,” said Lahaina resident Carol Ross.