LIHUE, HAWAII, SEPT. 16 -- Life will not return to normal on the battered island of Kauai for several years, according to government officials and business executives beginning to tally the extensive costs of Hurricane Iniki.
The storm caused moderate to severe damage at each of the island's 70 hotels, virtually wiping out a tourism economy that accounts for $1 billion annually. None is expected to reopen this year.
"This is a major blow to Kauai, obviously, but also to the state as a whole," said Leroy Laney, chief economist for First Hawaiian Bank.
While tourism is the major loss, Iniki also flattened the sugar-cane crop that was Kauai's second most important source of income. Growers had diversified in recent years because of the low price of sugar, but the storm also destroyed the macadamia nut and guava crops and toppled coffee trees ready for harvest.
With the economy here in a shambles, Gov. John D. Waihee III (D) welcomed news from Washington that President Bush amended his declaration of Hawaii as a disaster area so the federal government will pay 100 percent of most cleanup costs instead of the customary 75 percent.
Waihee and Kauai Mayor JoAnn Yukimura (D) requested the action, noting that Bush took similar action after Hurricane Andrew struck Florida and Louisiana last month.
Meanwhile, Waihee imposed statewide price controls in response to persistent reports of price-gouging on Kauai and established a telephone hotline for citizens who think they have been overcharged for supplies.
With the island's two main sources of income erased, the unemployment rate on Kauai jumped overnight from 5 percent to more than 50 percent. Most of the remaining work force is involved in cleanup and construction, but Kauai's lumber supply is virtually nonexistent and building materials are trickling in by barge.
Conditions on Kauai outside the towns of Lihue, Wailua and Kapaa remain "primitive," Yukimura said. Some communities are expected to remain without tap water until the end of the week, and Citizens Utilities officials said it will take two months to restore electricity to most homes and businesses.
Telephone links have been resumed between Kauai and Honolulu on Oahu, about 100 miles away, but disaster-relief officials are communicating within 555-square-mile Kauai largely by dispatching couriers who use four-wheel-drive vehicles to navigate narrow roads littered with debris in remote areas.
Garbage disposal is a serious problem. The Kauai County government established five trash-collection sites, but some residents have dumped garbage and wreckage from their homes along roadsides.
Another storm is threatening the island. The National Weather Service issued flash-flood warnings as the remnants of Tropical Storm Orlene headed toward Kauai and neighboring islands.
In the immediate aftermath of Iniki, which struck with 140 mph sustained winds last Friday, residents and tourists displayed calm and good humor. There were few reports of looting and friction such as that which plagued South Florida and parts of Louisiana after Andrew.
But strain is beginning to show. Some residents of the isolated north shore have complained about receiving little news about recovery efforts.
"People feel isolated, uninformed and angry," Myles Ludwig, a North Shore resident, told the Honolulu Advertiser. "There is a great community spirit out there, but they feel that government has ignored them, not only in services but in providing information."
The first serious report of theft came Tuesday at Lihue Airport, where a load of generators intended for medical clinics was missing.
Officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said they hope to have five disaster-application centers opened on Kauai by midday Thursday. Eric Honma, liaison for Waihee on Kauai, said state government teams will move throughout the island to help residents apply for money, food stamps and tax relief.
Yukimura said in an interview that she hoped "everything would not be rebuilt exactly as it was before."
Noting that Iniki's tidal surge inundated ground floors of beachfront resort hotels, she said setbacks of at least 100 feet would be desirable when hotels are rebuilt. "After two hurricanes, we may be able to sell the hotels on that" idea, she said.
In 1982, the last hurricane to strike Hawaii, Iwa, caused damage that was extensive but not island wide, as with Iniki.
Business executives searching for bright spots today pointed to the likelihood of a construction boom on Kauai. Walter Dods, chairman of First Hawaiian Bank, said construction increased tenfold on Kauai in the year after Iwa and economic activity would be greater this time.
But government officials and private economists agreed that recovery will be much slower on Kauai than in South Florida or Louisiana because the island is so remote and building supplies must be brought by ship or cargo plane from the west coast of the U.S. mainland.
Hawaii tourism officials also expressed concern that worldwide publicity about Iniki will discourage tourists.
One official lamented privately that "people outside Hawaii know only that a hurricane hit here and don't realize that it was largely limited to Kauai."
Scheduled commercial flights resumed today at Lihue Airport but remained restricted to daylight hours because of control tower damage.