Donald Trump has slammed Joe Biden and the governor of Hawaii for their reaction to the historic wildfire in Maui that has now cost 99 lives and accused the president of “refusing to help.”
“The sad thing is it should never have happened, our government was not prepared and very importantly the aftermath is going very poorly with the governor of the island wanting to do nothing but blame it on global warming and other things that just happened to pop into his head,” said the one-term president in a video on Monday.
“It is a disgraceful thing that Joe Biden refuses to help or comment on the tragedy in Maui just as he refused to help or comment on the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, for a very long time.”
Over the weekend, the president was repeatedly asked by reporters about the devastating fires which have so far claimed 96 lives and burned the historic town of Lahaina, Maui island, to the ground.
While on a bike ride through Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, Mr Biden was asked by reporters if he was going to visit Maui.
“We’re looking at it,” he responded.
Trump says what happened in Maui never would’ve happened if he was president, and Biden and the Gov of Hawaii won’t help and just want to blame global warming. pic.twitter.com/mULOTWE6dn— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) August 14, 2023
Sometime later – after spending a couple of hours relaxing on the beach – Bloomberg correspondent Justin Sink reported that Mr Biden was asked about the rising death toll in Hawaii, to which he simply replied: “No comment.”
Republicans took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to slam the president’s response to the devastating fires.
Mike Flynn, who served as US national security adviser under Donald Trump, slammed Mr Biden and claimed that his predecessor would have faced a “media firestorm” for doing the same thing.
“‘Imagine the media firestorm if Trump was golfing while Maui burned.’ There are now approx 100 dead and over 1,000 missing. And this whatever goes for a bike ride. God knows we need new leadership in the White House,” he wrote.
Another former Trump administration official – Monica Crowley – also hit out at Mr Biden.
“Biden doesn’t give AF about the suffering people of Maui,” tweeted Mr Crowley, former assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury under Mr Trump, before making a reference to the East Palestine train derailment disaster.
“Or the suffering people of East Palestine, Ohio. Or the suffering people in border towns. Or the suffering people anywhere in America.”
Back in February, a cargo train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, sending hazardous materials into the airs and waterways.
At the time, Mr Biden came under fire from Republicans for paying a visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, to meet with Ukrainian President Volodyrmr Zelensky instead of visiting residents in the state.
Conspiracy theorist and MAGA Republican Kari Lake also joined in the criticism, tweeting: “In Maui: 93 (& counting) Americans are dead. 1,000 are missing. One of the most beautiful places on earth has been reduced to cinders. In Delaware: @JoeBiden can’t be bothered to care. Putting America First means getting this joker out of the White House.”
However, while Republicans and some online critics blasted the president this weekend, he has been widely praised by Hawaiian officials for his response to the disaster.
Governor Josh Green thanked Mr Biden for sending federal emergency relief to the state so quickly.
“We were honored to have the President jump to it so fast,” he said on MSNBC on Sunday.
“In 6 hours, he approved the presidential declaration. It was incredible. Within 6 hours. And so, that opened up, like you said, FEMA and amazing support for recovery.”
US Senator Brian Schatz also released a statement praising the president after he approved a presidential disaster declaration.
“Recovering from these devastating fires will take significant time and resources, and we need all the federal support we can get,” he said.
“I thank the Biden Administration for moving fast to approve this disaster declaration. It will unlock federal resources and help our state and county governments respond to and recover from these fires and help the people of Maui and Hawai‘i Island.”
And the White House has pushed back strongly on the criticism levelled at the president.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre spent the first half of Monday’s press briefing focusing on Mr Biden’s federal action to assist officials and residents in Maui.
“You’ve heard from [Mr Biden] already on Thursday, certainly you’ll hear from him continuously this week,” Ms Jean-Pierre said. “Look, this is something that the President is clearly deeply concerned about.”
The death toll from the Hawaiian wildfires has now risen to 99, after officials confirmed that another three victims had been found among the ruins on Monday.
The blaze which burned the historic town of Lahaina to the ground is already the deadliest wildfire in US modern history, soaring past the death toll of 85 people killed in the 2018 Camp Fire in northern California.
The death toll is expected to climb even further as hundreds of residents still remain missing, with the search for survivors painstakingly slow.
As of Saturday, crews with cadaver dogs had managed to cover just three per cent of the search area.
Of the victims so far found, officials have been faced with a new, grim challenge of struggling to identify them – as the remains are burned to such an extreme.
Maui County police chief John Pelletier described the state of the remains in chilling detail.
“We pick up remains and they fall apart,” he said on Saturday.
“The remains we’re finding is through a fire that melted metal. We have to do rapid DNA to identify everyone.”
By then, only two victims had been formally identified with officials urging survivors with missing family members to come forward to provide DNA samples to help with the identification process.
Some residents have started to return to Lahaina where the fire burned around 2,170 acres and destroyed historic buildings and homes.
As Hawaiian locals desperately search for their loved ones and piece together what’s left of their homes, some have claimed that looters are now targeting Lahaina at night, robbing residents and stealing their last worldly possessions.
Matt Robb, co-owner of a Lāhainā bar called The Dirty Monkey, told Business Insider that residents are desperate for local leaders to take control of the emergency response amid a spate of people being robbed at gunpoint.
“There’s some police presence. There’s some small military presence, but at night people are being robbed at gunpoint,” Matt Robb, co-owner of local bar The Dirty Monkey, told Business Insider.
Meanwhile, celebrities and tourists are coming under fire as some are still flocking to the island.
Paris Hilton has been slammed for holidaying in Maui over the weekend while Oprah Winfrey’s camera crew was refused entry at an emergency shelter as she came to hand out supplies.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies