President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden traveledto Maui, Hawaii on Monday to meet with residents who were affected by the recent wildfires, which have been deemed the deadliest in modern history.
In the town of Lahaina, where 850 people are still missing, the president told reporters that over 450 search-and-rescue experts are “working around the clock," and that the federal government will be continue to provide aid to the state for recovery efforts.
President Biden visits Maui
“The country grieves with you, stands with you and will do everything possible to help you recover, rebuild and respect culture and traditions,” he said.
Biden then took note of a banyan tree over a century in age that still stood amidst the wreckage, albeit charred.
“Today it’s burned, but it’s still standing,” he continued. "Trees survive for a reason. I believe it's a powerful, a very powerful symbol, of what we can and will do to get through this crisis."
He added: “The fire cannot reach its roots. That’s Maui. That's America.”
Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said in a video on social media earlier this week that 114 people have been confirmed dead, yet only 27 have been identified, and just 11 families could be reached for notification. While over 800 people are still considered missing, the list previously contained over 2,000 names.
Once the capital of Hawaii, Lahaina saw over 2,700 structures destroyed in the fires. Residents and tourists were seen attempting to escape the flames by fleeing into the ocean.
In a statement ahead of his trip Monday, Biden wrote: “I know how profoundly loss can impact a family and a community and I know nothing can replace the loss of life. I will do everything in my power to help Maui recover and rebuild from this tragedy. And throughout our efforts, we are focused on respecting sacred lands, cultures, and traditions.”