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Hawaii crews work to assess damage

March 13, 2011
By MARK NIESSE, The Associated Press

Honolulu - Tsunami waves damaged at least 60 houses, sank up to 15 boats and battered hundreds of other vessels, leaving some residents homeless Saturday as emergency crews assessed the destruction.

No one in Hawaii was killed or injured by the tsunami that swept across Hawaii early Friday morning, said Shelly Ichishita, a spokeswoman for Hawaii State Civil Defense. But property damage mounted when waves pummeled houses, boats collided against one another and docks became unusable.

A cruise ship carrying about 2,000 passengers, the Pride of America, will skip its midweek stop at Kailua-Kona Pier on the Big Island because asphalt was pulled up, a comfort station was submerged and ticket booths were destroyed, said Ed Underwood, administrator for the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation with the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Instead, the boat will spend Wednesday night at sea.

Article Photos

Damaged boats are seen floating at the La Mariana Sailing Club on Friday in Honolulu. A tsunami caused damage in the Hawaiian Islands following an earthquake in Japan.

AP photo

"This was more of a tragedy for property assets more so than people," said a U.S. Coast Guard official in Honolulu. "It's nothing compared to what Japan has been through. We've been fortunate to just have some disruption of commercial activities."

At least 200 boats at Keehi Lagoon on Oahu were damaged when their floating docks were pushed out to sea and then pulled back in when waves crashed toward shore, Underwood said.

"It was amazing to see. Every time the water receded, it would pull this entire dock system all the way down the channel," he said. "We have sunken boats, damaged piers and broken concrete pilings that hold the piers up. . . . There's debris everywhere that needs to be cleaned up."

A few people were still trapped aboard their boats off the coast Saturday with nowhere to land because of the damage.

The American Red Cross provided food and shelter to two families who lived in boats at the marina, and snacks were distributed by the Coast Guard to boaters, said Maria Lutz, director of disaster services for the Hawaii state chapter of the American Red Cross.

"Those boats were their homes, so now we have some people with no place to go," Ichishita said.

The tsunami hit the west coast of the Big Island the hardest, destroying at least two homes, totaling cars, flooding residences and downing power lines, she said.

Twenty guest bungalows at Kona Village Resort were lifted off their foundations, and water damaged boardwalks, beach houses and restrooms, and several other hotels, she said.

Guests boarding the Pride of America in Honolulu on Saturday received letters explaining that they'll miss their stop in Kailua-Kona, said Anne Marie Mathews, a spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line. They weren't offered refunds.

"It's definitely not suitable for docking. That's why we changed the itinerary for this week," she said. "It's a tsunami, so there's not much we can do about it."

The effects of the tsunami would have likely been far worse if it had occurred during the day instead of the dead of night, when no one could see what was happening and the workday was already over, Ichishita said.

"One of the worst-case scenarios we look at is a tsunami warning happening when children are in school," she said. "We'd have a hard time convincing parents not to pick up students."

On the Big Island, Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park was flooded, and extensive damage struck nine vehicles, a church hall, six apartments and seven homes, aside from the two that were destroyed.

Dozens more residents sustained minor damage.

On Maui, a few homes in Wailuku and Kihei were damaged. Some homes were also affected on Molokai.

Kauai escaped serious damage.



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