Maui wildfires updates: President Biden, first lady tour damage

The fires burned thousands of homes and commercial buildings to the ground.

The deadly wildfires that erupted on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Aug. 8 have become the deadliest natural disaster in state history, officials said.

The blazes spread rapidly due to very dry conditions stemming from a drought combined with powerful winds. Much of the historic town of Lahaina has been "destroyed," officials said, and the inferno has burned thousands of residential and commercial buildings to the ground.

Maui Wildfires
ABC News, AP, Nasa

Latest headlines:

Here's how the news developed. All times Eastern.
Aug 17, 2023, 5:36 AM EDT

Maui Strong: Charities to directly support wildfire relief efforts

On Thursday, "Good Morning America" and ABC News organized efforts to help viewers get involved in relief efforts for survivors of the Maui fires.

"Good Morning America" is helping raise awareness for Maui fire relief efforts.
ABC News

How to help:

-- Maui Strong Fund

-- Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

-- University of Hawai'i Foundation

-- Kokua Restaurant & Hospitality Fund for Maui

-- American Red Cross/ABC

-ABC News’ Kelly McCarthy

Aug 16, 2023, 11:55 AM EDT

What we know about the victims

Over 100 people have died from the devastating wildfires on Maui. Officials have warned that the death toll is expected to rise as they work to contain the active blazes and assess the damage.

Click here to read what we know about some of the victims.

PHOTO: In an undated photo, Buddy Jantoc, center, is seen with his granddaughter Keshia Alakai and her husband.
In an undated photo, Buddy Jantoc, center, is seen with his granddaughter Keshia Alakai and her husband. Courtesy of The Family of Buddy Jantoc
Courtesy of The Family of Buddy Jantoc

Aug 21, 2023, 11:42 PM EDT

Death toll rises to 115

The death toll from the wildfires has risen to 115 people, Maui County and the Maui Police Department said Monday.

Aug 21, 2023, 7:51 PM EDT

Biden: 'We're going to rebuild the way the people of Maui want it to be rebuilt'

President Joe Biden spoke with reporters after he and the first lady toured the damage of the wildfires with Gov. Josh Green and other Hawaii elected officials.

Biden, who spoke near a historic banyan tree that was not burned, acknowledged the damage was devastating but said the strength of residents and state and local leaders would help the community persevere.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks as he visits an area devastated by wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii on Aug. 21, 2023.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

"The tree survived 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 said.

The president reflected on his own loss when his first wife Neilia and 13-month-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car crash in 1972 and said he knows the pain of what many residents, especially ones who are still searching for their loved ones, are going through.

Biden said there are over 450 search-and-rescue experts working around the clock to help find people.

"The difference between knowing somebody's gone and worrying whether they're available to come back are two different things," he said.

Biden acknowledged the long road ahead but reiterated that the federal government will be on the island "for as long as it takes" to help them recover and rebuild.

President Joe Biden (2nd R), US First Lady Jill Biden (R), Hawaii Governor Josh Green (2nd L) and Jaime Green, First Lady of Hawaii, visit an area devastated by wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii on Aug. 21, 2023.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

He emphasized that the federal government "will be respectful of the sacred grounds [and] the traditions."

"We're going to rebuild the way that people of Maui want to build, but you know, it's gonna be hard," he said.

Aug 21, 2023, 6:20 PM EDT

Bidens land in Maui, begin tour of devastated areas

President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived in Maui around 11:20 a.m. local time for their visit to the devastated island.

Biden was greeted by Hawaii Gov. Josh Green at the bottom of Air Force One. Green shook the president’s hand before the two hugged.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Kahului Airport, Kahului, Hawaii, Aug. 21, 2023.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The first lady also hugged Green and his wife Jaime.

Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and Rep. Jill Tokuda also greeted the Bidens.

The president and first lady took an aerial tour aboard Marine One an aerial tour of the impacted areas with the governor, senators, Tokuda and Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Criswell.

The Bidens and the entourage then took a tour on foot.

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Aug 21, 2023, 1:59 PM EDT

Biden's visit will be 'an emotional day for everyone': White House

President Joe Biden and the first lady's visit to Maui later on Monday will be "an emotional day for everyone," White House principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton told reporters.

The president will "meet with parents who've lost children, and children who lost parents, and first responders who saved other's homes while their own burned to the ground," Dalton said.

An aerial image shows a red roofed house that survived the fires surrounded by destroyed homes and buildings burned to the ground in historic Lahaina, Hawaii, Aug. 10, 2023.
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Over $8.5 million has been distributed to Maui residents, including $3.6 million for direct rental assistance, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said.

Eight-thousand families have registered for assistance, she said.

A rainbow appears above the devastated town of Lahaina, Hawaii, Aug. 20, 2023.
Yomiuri Shimbun via AP

Biden on Monday is expected to announce Bob Fenton, the Region 9 administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as the chief federal response coordinator to oversee Maui's long-term coordinated federal recovery effort.

Criswell said Fenton will "provide that level of oversight and coordination to make sure all the federal departments and agencies are bringing all the resources that they can to help this community rebuild and recover."

A National Guardsman walks past a home destroyed in a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, Aug. 18, 2023.
Jae C. Hong/AP

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

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