President Joe Biden has been on vacation for nearly 40 percent of his presidency — and he didn’t bother leaving the beach while Maui burned to the ground and millions of Americans suffered.
In Hawaii, scores more people could be found dead following ferocious wildfires as search and rescue crews scoured neighborhoods street by street and prepared to comb through buildings charred by flames that spread a mile a minute.
The blazes, which consumed almost all of the historic town of Lahaina, are already the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century, with a toll of 96.
The danger hasn’t passed. Two fires have not yet been completely contained, according to an update from Maui County late Sunday.
“We are prepared for many tragic stories,” Gov. Josh Green told “CBS Mornings” in a recorded interview that was aired Monday. “They will find 10 to 20 people per day, probably, until they finish. And it’s probably going to take 10 days. It’s impossible to guess, really.”
The number of people missing is still at a staggering 1,300.
Don’t expect Biden to race to help. He spent the weekend on the beach in Rehoboth, Delaware… again.
Wow. What a nice guy. https://t.co/jqHaLh2F6F
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) August 14, 2023
In Hawaii, search and rescue are “going street by street, block by block between cars, and soon they’ll start to enter buildings,” Jeff Hickman, the director of public affairs for the Hawaii Department of Defense, said Monday on NBC’s “Today.”
Such crews had covered just 3% of the search area, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said Saturday.
The blaze that swept into centuries-old Lahaina nearly a week ago destroyed nearly every building in the town of 13,000, leaving a grid of gray rubble wedged between the blue ocean and lush green slopes. That fire has been 85% contained, according to the county, while the Upcountry fire is still just 60% contained.
Even where the fire has retreated, authorities have warned that toxic byproducts may remain, including in drinking water, after the flames spewed poisonous fumes. And many people simply have no home to return to — so authorities plan to house them in hotels and vacation rentals.
The cause of the wildfires is under investigation, and Green said authorities would also examine their response. One fire, for instance, was thought to be out but later flared again. Before the blaze engulfed Lahaina, Maui County officials also failed to activate sirens that would have warned the entire population and instead relied on social media posts.
Fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, the flames on Maui raced through the parched brush — one moving as fast as 1 mile every minute, according to Green.
“With those kinds of winds and 1,000-degree temperatures, ultimately all the pictures that you will see will be easy to understand,” he said.
The fires are Hawaii’s deadliest natural disaster in decades, surpassing a 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people. They also surpassed the 2018 Camp Fire in northern California that left 85 dead and destroyed the town of Paradise.
— S͎K͎E͎L͎E͎T͎O͎R͎🍄🍿 (@Skeletor_1981) August 14, 2023
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article