House Speaker Kevin McCarthy slammed President Joe Biden and his administration for a supposedly lackluster response to the wildfires that have devastated the island of Maui in Hawaii, promising that a congressional committee will look into the matter very soon.
Joe Biden Takes the Heat
“I’m very concerned about the response,” McCarthy told media during a press conference in New York. He added, “The president’s response – to have no comment? That’s unacceptable. So I’m going to work with committees too to look at investigating what went on so that never happens again as well.”
The speaker stressed that given that there are “still have hundreds of individuals that are missing,” a congressional investigation response to the incident is warranted. “How could we lose that many Americans in today’s age? And the federal response seems very delayed,’ McCarthy said.
Joe Biden has only visited Maui recently, weeks after the incident.
“’The country grieves with you, stands with you, and we’ll do everything possible to help you recover, rebuild, and respect culture and traditions when the rebuilding takes place,” Biden said at a speech, but response from residents to the president’s visit was mixed at best, with many giving his motorcade the middle finger while some waved Trump flags.
The Maui wildfire is the worst in recent U.S. history
With a death toll of 115 – a number that is still expected to rise – the Maui wildfires are now considered to be the worst case of wildfires in recent U.S. history. More than a thousand people are also still missing.
The fires also razed the once picturesque seaside town of Lahaina in Maui, and all that is left are a few establishments here and there, with the rest of the town virtually reduced to ashes. Property damage is massive – primarily consisting of residential properties – and stands at around $6 billion.
The island has also seen enormous losses to its economy from lost income from tourism; thousands of visitors have been flown out of the island in the aftermath of the blaze, and government officials are asking tourists to stay away for now so that the local authorities can focus on essential services like search and rescue, recovery, relief, rehabilitation, and rebuilding efforts.
Previously, the 2018 Camp Fire in California was considered the worst incident of wildfire in recent U.S. history, leaving 85 people dead in its wake and destroying the town of Paradise.
Class action pending against neglectful power company
Many victims are pointing their fingers at the local utility Hawaiian Electric Co. as the culprit for the blaze.
Many allege that the company ignored weather warnings and did not shut down power. The company is facing multiple lawsuits over the incident and is set to face a class-action lawsuit similar to the one filed against California-based power utility PG&E in the aftermath of the California Camp Fire, apart from other financial challenges it is expected to face.
“Hawaiian Electric is not just responsible and they weren’t just negligent. They were grossly negligent by making conscious decisions to delay grid modernization projects that would have prevented this very tragedy,” said Mikal Watts, a lead attorney on a lawsuit filed against Hawaiian Electric.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that while company looked into the mistakes PG&E made in relation to the 2018 Camp Fire, Hawaiian Electric did little else to improve its systems, infrastructure, and processes for wildfire prevention. Citing regulatory filings, the news outlet said that the utility only put in $245,000 for wildfire-specific projects on Maui over three years – from 2019 to 2022.
Tim Ramos has written for various publications, corporations, and organizations – covering everything from finance, politics, travel, entertainment, and sports – in Asia and the U.S. for more than 10 years.
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