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"We're with you as long as it takes": President Biden delivers remarks during tour of Maui wildfire damage

President Biden delivers remarks during tour of Maui wildfire damage
President Biden delivers remarks during tour of Maui wildfire damage 05:11

LAHAINA — President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden touched down on Maui on Monday to survey the destruction caused by the deadly wildfires.

The Bidens took an aerial tour of the island to witness firsthand the destruction that overtook the historic town of Lahaina. During his visit, the president is also meeting with survivors, first responders and other Hawaiian officials.

"It really feels different when you're on the ground and can see the total devastation of Lahaina town," said FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell. "And then [the president will] talk to some of the families that have been impacted by this and hear their stories.

Flames engulfed Lahaina almost two weeks ago, killing more than 100 people, including Luz Vargas' son. The 14-year-old was home alone when the fire started.

"When we got to his bedroom, he was there, lying and hugging my dog. But he was not as I expected, in ashes," Vargas said through a translator.

The Maui County mayor now says 850 people are officially listed as missing. He's thanking the FBI and local police for locating over 1,200 individuals so far.

"We are both saddened and relieved about these numbers as we continue the recovery process," Mayor Richard Bissen said.

One man has been putting up posters with pictures of his stepfather, hoping he might still be found alive.

"We don't know if he might have left early or ran into another area that was bad or so and they might've diverted him back," Tim Laborte said.

While the work on the island goes forward, frustration is mounting about what some view as the slow and inefficient federal response.

"Just disappointed," former Maui resident Ramon Garcia said. "They let us down. There's nothing more we could say. They dropped the ball in more ways than one."

The Biden administration says it plans to continue to bring in resources to support the needs of the people and be there for Maui as long as it takes.

"To the people of Hawaii, we're with you for as long as it takes, I promise you," the president said. "May God bless all those we've lost, may God find those who we haven't determined yet, and may God bless you all."

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