Hawaii senator says she won't "make any excuses" as state reviews its wildfire response

As the deadliest US wildfire in more than 100 years broke out and Maui lost power and communications, the largest siren system in the world remained silent. Some residents say they did not receive an official warning, and there have been complaints that officials were woefully unprepared for wildfires.

The senator added that there will be a time coming up for those kinds of reviews and investigations, but she is now focused on the need for rescue.

Hirono spoke with Tapper Sunday morning, a day after surveying the damage on Maui with the state's governor and the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"The entire historic town of Lahaina burned to the ground," she said, adding that there were images of cars that were totally demolished. "We saw a group of cars near the ocean, and it is quite clear that the occupants of those cars probably fled into the ocean, and I was told at least 12 people were rescued from the ocean in that location."

The senator also discussed the people who are still missing, saying "we are in a period of mourning and loss."

"Some of them have been accounted for, some of them have been found in the shelters," she said. "I visited one with some 400 residents sleeping on cots, and we are going to need to provide them with short-term and long-term housing."

Hirono also spoke about resources and government agency support while acknowledging the state is in a period of "shock and loss."

"We know that recovery will be long, and the resources will be necessary," she said. "The focus right now is truly on recovery. There are still people who are unaccounted for. They need to be identified. There is a call for people to come in to provide DNA."

On climate change, and if the senator would like President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency, Hirono said "we very much need to acknowledge that climate change is upon us," adding that "more needs to be done." 

"There is not enough recognition that we are going to need to combat these kinds of wildfires," she said. "We need to be to be assessing our ability to contend with these kinds of natural disasters, which we are seeing more of the frequency and the damage that is done. Clearly, this is happening all across the world," the senator added.

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