Hawaii wildfires: Joe Biden pledges to rebuild Maui for 'as long as it takes' during visit

Joe Biden's visit to Maui comes nearly two weeks after the Hawaiian island was left devastated by wildfires, as Yasmin Bodalbhai reports

Joe Biden has pledged the US government will support Maui in its recovery for "as long as it takes" after the Hawaiian island was left devastated by wildfires.

The US president, who was visiting Maui for the first time since the fires took hold earlier in August, also told survivors the nation "grieves with you".

At least 115 people died from the blazes, with a further 500 to 800 residents believed to be missing, according to the White House. DNA experts have been brought in to help identify human remains.

The fires are thought to have started after high winds toppled telephone poles and power lines onto dry grasslands.

President Biden said the recovery operation would respect sacred Hawaiian lands, cultures and traditions, vowing: "We're going to rebuild the way the people of Maui want to rebuild."

The 80-year-old was accompanied by first lady Jill Biden for Monday's visit, which took in the scorched remains of Lahaina.

The town, which is home to 13,000 people, was razed by the wildfires, apart from one home, which has been dubbed the "miracle house".

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk through the streets of Lahaina, Maui. Credit: AP

Hawaii Governor Josh Green was among the delegation to greet the Bidens upon their arrival at Kahului Airport, before they were flown via helicopter for an aerial tour of the damage.

The Bidens also met with survivors, emergency personnel and state officials, who provided a briefing in relation to the ongoing response.

Dozens gathered on the streets of Lahaina to watch President Biden's motorcade pass through, with some holding aloft signs that urged him to "listen to the people of Lahaina" and send more aid.

President Biden has been criticised by some Republicans, including former president Donald Trump, for a muted response in the immediate aftermath of the fires.

A man stands with a sign while waiting for the arrival of President Biden outside Lahaina. Credit: AP

The White House, however, has rejected the comments, saying the US president acted quickly and remained in close contact with key officials as the crisis unfolded.

More than 1,000 US government officials remain on the ground in Maui, while $8.5 million (£6.6 million) in aid has been distributed by the White House.

But thousands of people are still estimated to be without access to phone signal or the internet, and water on western parts of Maui remains unsafe to drink.

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