The US president has claimed flames nearly deprived him of his wife, car and cat in an incident 19 years ago
US President Joe Biden has told residents of the fire-ravaged Hawaiian island of Maui that he can understand their suffering because of his experience of a small fire in his own home in 2004.
Biden arrived in Maui on Monday to inspect the aftermath of the deadliest wildfires to hit the United States in more than a century. The official death toll from the disaster currently stands at 115 and is expected to rise, with Maui County Mayor Richard T. Bissen Jr. saying some 850 people are still missing.
Several thousand buildings, mostly private homes, were destroyed by the massive blaze in early August, with local authorities estimating more than $5 billion is needed to rebuild.
“I don’t want to compare hardship, but Jill and I have a little idea of what it’s like to lose a home,” the US president told residents of the town of Lahaina, which has been devastated by the wildfires.
“Years ago now, 15 years ago, I was in Washington doing ‘Meet the Press’. It was a sunny Sunday and lightning struck my house on a small lake that’s outside of our house, not on a lake, a large pond”, remembers the 80-year-old man.
“And it hit a wire and went up under our house into the heating ducts, the air conditioning ducts. Long story short, I almost lost my wife, my ’67 Corvette, and my cat. Biden asserted, adding that it was “not a joke.”
The Biden home fire in Wilmington, Delaware happened in August 2004 and was described as “insignificant” by the local fire department. In its report at the time, the AP said that a “small fire that was confined to the kitchen” was brought under control by paramedics within 20 minutes.
The US President has mentioned this incident a few times before, each time providing different accounts of the events. Last year he claimed that “we almost lost a few firefighters” during this fire. In 2012, he went so far as to say he “I had a house burnt down with my wife in it”, but then corrected himself by pointing out that “She got out safely.”
Biden has received a rather cold reception in Maui as locals blame Washington for abandoning them amid the crisis. Some took to the streets chanting “Go home, Joe!” and holding banners reading “No comment,” in reference to the US leader’s refusal last week to answer questions about the rising death toll in wildfires.
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