SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — U.S. President Joe Biden announced during a speech in Salt Lake City this morning that FEMA is working to get disaster aid to Hawaiians affected by the devastating wildfire tearing through the island of Maui this week.
“We have just approved a major disaster declaration in Hawaii that will get aid in the hands of people desperately needing help right now,” Biden said. The president urged anyone needing help in Hawaii to go to disasterassistance.gov and immediately apply for benefits.
Biden said he has ordered all available federal assets to be used in helping with the natural disaster, including ordering the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy’s 3rd Fleet, and the U.S. Army to assist the Hawaiian National Guard.
Biden also said prayers are going out to the people of Maui.
“Not just prayers, though,” he said. “Every asset we have will be available to them.”
As of this morning, Thursday, Aug. 10, 36 people have died in the fires. Fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, the fire started Tuesday and took the island by surprise, racing through parched growth and neighborhoods in the historic town of Lahaina, a tourist destination that dates to the 1700s and is the biggest community on the island’s west side.
Maui County said late Wednesday the blaze is the deadliest U.S. wildfire since the 2018 Camp Fire in California, which killed at least 85 people and laid waste to the town of Paradise. The Hawaii toll could rise, though, as rescuers reach parts of the island that had been unreachable due to ongoing fires or obstructions.
Biden was speaking in Salt Lake City over the PACT Act, which aims to provide timely benefits and services to more than five million veterans who may have been impacted by toxic exposures during service, according to the White House.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.