Biden comforts families in fire-devastated Colorado
Some asked to hug, others got hugged without asking and one man, wearing the only clothes he had left, just clasped hands with Joe Biden as the US president made an emotional tour Friday of a devastating Colorado wildfire.
Surrounded by apocalyptic damage from the inferno, Biden sought to comfort locals.
The 79-year-old Democrat has long been famous for his ability to show empathy with the suffering and his powers were on full display as he moved along a line of families and firefighters in Louisville, which burned to cinders in the December 30 Marshall Fire.
“We lost everything,” a man told Biden and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden.
“I’m not even properly dressed because this is all I have,” the man said to Biden, gesturing at his long shorts.
“We definitely need help,” said the man’s son, who was also dressed in shorts, despite the snow lying over the blackened ruins of the neighborhood.
Biden held the father’s hand for a long time, and after shaking hands with a dozen firefighters, gave them all ceremonial coins.
One woman looked at Jill Biden and said, “May I?” and then embraced her. Biden put his arms around others.
“We’ll get through this,” one of the local men said.
Some 1,000 homes were destroyed in the blaze near the state’s biggest city Denver, and two people remain missing, authorities said.
Biden later made remarks from a local recreation center, where he said “there’s nothing so frightening, in my view,” as fire.
“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be here in this neighborhood and see winds whipping up to 100 miles (160 kilometers) an hour and see flames approaching,” he said.
Referring to huge wildfires around the country in an age of climate change, Biden said “more land has burned in the United States… than make up the entire, in terms of total acreage, as the entire state of New Jersey.”
“The situation is a blinking code red for our nation,” he added, referring to unusually high winds and the late arrival of snow as responsible for creating “a tinder box.”
“We can’t ignore the reality that these fires are being supercharged, they’re being supercharged” by climate change.
Biden said that families had asked him: “What do we do now?”
“Well, hang on to one another,” he said in response, recalling his long history of family tragedy when he said he had been “through” things. “That’s the way. Find purpose in what you’ve been through.”
Three weeks earlier the president flew to southwestern Kentucky to console survivors of tornadoes that killed dozens and left destruction that Biden described as “almost beyond belief.”