The president and his wife cut short their week-long holiday to comfort survivors of the devastating wildfires.
President Joe Biden on Monday told survivors of Hawaii’s wildfires that the nation “grieves with you” and promised that the federal government would help “for as long as it takes”.
The island of Maui has begun recovery operations from damage caused by the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century.
Biden arrived in Maui 13 days after fire ravaged the western part of the island, killing at least 114 people.
Eight hundred and fifty people are still missing. The flames moved so quickly that residents and visitors were caught off guard. Many were trapped in the streets or forced to jump into the ocean to escape.
Standing near a severely burned 150-year-old banyan tree, the president acknowledged the “overwhelming” devastation but said that Maui would persevere through the tragedy.
“Today it’s burned but it’s still standing,” Biden said of the tree. “The tree survived for a reason. I believe it’s a very powerful symbol of what we can and will do to get through this crisis.”
Biden and first lady Jill Biden cut short their week-long holiday to comfort survivors of the devastating wildfires and get a close-up look at the devastation.
They spent most of their time in Lahaina, the historic town of 13,000 people that was virtually destroyed by the flames.
"But I also want all of you to know the country grieves with you, stands with you, and will do everything possible to help you recover, rebuild and respect culture and traditions when the rebuilding takes place," the US president said.
Biden has faced criticism from some Republicans, including 2024 Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, for saying too little during the first days after the catastrophe.
The White House, however, has pushed back, saying the president acted quickly and kept in close touch with the governor and other emergency officials as the crisis unfolded.