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Video: Beach-bound Biden says ‘no comment’ on death toll of devastating Hawaii wildfires

President Joe Biden talks on the phone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, May 5, 2022, in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
August 14, 2023

As the death toll caused by devastating wildfires in Hawaii neared triple-digits over the weekend, President Joe Biden told reporters that he had “no comment” on the deadly natural disaster.

“Mr. President, any comment on the rising death toll in Maui?” a reporter asked Biden as he was leaving for his beach home in Rehoboth, Delaware.

“No. No comment,” Biden replied before flashing a toothy grin and departing for the beach.

The fire claimed at least 96 lives, according to authorities, making it the deadliest natural disaster in the history of Hawaii. With many people still missing, the death toll may continue to climb.

“In the wake of this disaster, the Maui Police Department has been working tirelessly to coordinate a thorough and respectful body recovery operation within the affected area,” the Maui Police Department wrote in a statment. “Our primary objective is to ensure the proper handling and identification of deceased individuals while maintaining the safety of the community and public safety personnel on the scene.”

“In the face of adversity, our community has always demonstrated resilience and unity. We understand that this is a trying time for everyone, and thank you for your cooperation and understanding as we work through this challenging period together,” the department’s statement added.

READ MORE: Devastation in Maui fire: 89 dead as frustration with emergency response grows

According to CBS News, the Pacific Disaster Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated roughly 2,207 structures were damaged or destroyed in the blaze and more than 2,000 acres of land burned.

Nearly 90% of the damaged structures were homes and around 4,500 people will need shelter, authorities estimated.

On Thursday, Biden approved a disaster declaration for the tropical state and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local efforts.

While speaking at an event in Utah last week, Biden claimed the administration is “working as quickly as possible to fight those fires and evacuate residents and tourists.”

“In the meantime, our prayers are with the people of Hawaii, but not just our prayers: every asset that we have will be available to them,” Biden said.