A Maui resident who spent nearly three hours treading water in the ocean to escape the deadliest wildfire in the United States in more than a century criticized the Biden administration’s response to the disaster, stressing, “We won’t.” treated like US citizens.” ”
Mike Cicchino and his wife Andreza said they were left homeless and jobless after the devastating wildfire that ravaged Lahaina earlier this month destroyed both their home and business.
“We feel like we’ve only just come through a fight for our lives. Now we are fighting again for our lives, for a home and a place to rest at night,” Cicchino said news nation.
“So far we have not received any help from the federal government.”
After the wildfires that killed at least 115 people and hundreds are still missing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved one-time grants of $700 per household as part of its initial disaster relief efforts.
However, Cicchino said he has not yet seen the money.
“We never received the $700, which I don’t think would go very far here in Hawaii,” he said. “We get help mainly from private organizations and non-profit organizations.”
“I can’t speak for everyone, but we feel like we’re not getting any help out here, at least from the federal government,” Cicchino continued. “As far as I know, they’re helping out on the ground with body searches, debris removal and the like. But they were of no help financially to the people who were displaced.”
Cicchino said the fires took not only a financial but an emotional toll on Maui residents.
“Being on fire, not knowing where is land, in certain places, the currents are pulling us where we can’t touch the bottom,” Cicchino said, recalling how he and his wife ran into the sea , as the fire began to break through their neighborhood.
“I remember sometimes just telling her to make sure she saves herself. ‘Do not worry. “If I drown out here, you save yourself,” he said of his wife.
“It’s the most terrifying experience of our lives.”
The Biden administration has faced backlash from Hawaiians in recent weeks, saying it was incredibly slow to respond to offer assistance.
President Biden, 80, was also angered by some residents – and Republican lawmakers – for waiting 13 days to visit the island.
However, the White House declined, stressing the president acted quickly and stayed in close contact with the governor and other emergency officials as the crisis unfolded.
FEMA announced last week that it had distributed more than $8.5 million in relief funds to approximately 8,000 affected families, including $3.6 million in rental assistance.