HONOLULU, JAN. 2 -- Flooding caused by up to 20 inches of rain abated today on the eastern side of the island of Oahu, and most of the 2,800 evacuees returned to clean up at least $29 million in damage.

The New Year's Eve flash floods left 72 people homeless, but no injuries were reported.

"We worked so hard for this, and now it's all gone," said Pat von Arnswaldt, standing in six inches of mud in the living room of the home she and her husband, Bill, bought three years ago.

The von Arnswaldts' home in the Hahaione Valley is on Kahena Street, which was transformed into a raging creek when water overflowed a canal clogged with trees and boulders and carved a channel up to 20 feet deep in places.

The water left yards piled with a mixture of mud, paving slabs and boulders, along with dozens of dented cars.

The floods from Niu Valley to Kailua were caused by a sudden storm that stalled along the Koolau Mountain on Hawaii's most populous island.

Some areas received up to 20 inches of rain in 24 hours, authorities said.

Some people were rescued by boat. Firefighters and police helped some residents wade through rushing water.

Most of the 2,800 evacuees stayed with friends or relatives in other parts of Oahu, which had only light but steady rain.

Oahu Civil Defense officials estimated damage at $29 million, stressing that the estimate was preliminary and likely to rise. Most of the damage occurred in homes, and homeowners insurance generally does not cover flood damage, said insurance industry spokesman Robert Grantham.

"Very clearly, this is a disaster and after I receive a full inventory {of damage} from the city, I will declare it so," Gov. John D. Waihee III (D) said after a tour Friday.