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Hawaii Hurricane Devastates Kauai

Iniki Blamed For 3 Deaths, Scores of Injuries

By Al Kamen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 13, 1992; Page A01
© The Washington Post

Search and rescue teams, medical supplies, food and other items were rushed yesterday to the state of Hawaii as residents began to clean up the devastation of Hurricane Iniki, the strongest to hit the island chain this century.

Three people were reported killed and 98 injured, officials said. Two of the dead were on the island of Kauai, according to Mayor JoAnn Yukimura, who did not provide details. She estimated property damage on the island at more than $500 million, and Gov. John D. Waihee III put the total for the state at $1 billion.

"I saw total devastation. It broke my heart," the Associated Press quoted Yukimura as saying after she and Waihee returned to Lihue Airport from an aerial tour. "Our whole island is really devastated. It was islandwide. There is incredible human suffering in terms of loss of homes and dislocation of their lives."

Waihee said the beachfront houses and businesses in the heavily developed Poipu area on the island's south shore were destroyed by 20-foot waves. "Where once you saw a beautiful beach park, now you don't see it," he said, referring to Brennecke's Beach, which was restored after being destroyed by Hurricane Iwa in 1982.

"Hurricane Iwa was just a preliminary compared to this," AP quoted Waihee as saying.

At Waihee's request, President Bush declared most of the state a federal disaster area. White House spokeswoman Laura Melillo said Bush's declaration meant that federal funding would be available for temporary housing and that grants and low-cost loans could cover uninsured property losses.

The third storm-related death was reported in a house fire on Oahu island, where Honolulu and Pearl Harbor are located, 80 miles away from Kauai. Federal officials said Iniki (pronounced ee-NEE-kee), which had 160 mph wind gusts, was slightly weaker than Hurricane Andrew, which hit the Bahamas and then devastated southern Florida and parts of Louisiana last month.

One initial account transmitted by radio by a reporter for the Honolulu Advertiser estimated that as many as a third of the houses on Kauai (pronounced kuh-WHY-ee) were severely damaged and that destruction was visible everywhere. A state Civil Defense official reported roads were blocked with debris and that utility poles were down all over Kauai.

Boats at the Port Allen harbor on Kauai's south shore were piled atop one another, a Hawaiian Telephone Co. employee who flew over the island by helicopter told AP. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Princeville community and resort on Kauai's north shore near Hanalei also was heavily damaged.

Lorie Hirose told CNN she had spent her honeymoon huddled for six hours Friday night with other guests in the basement of the Hyatt Regency at Poipu. She said Iniki's gusts of up to 160 mph stripped trees of their leaves, just as Andrew had done in southern Florida.

Iniki, with sustained wind of 130 mph, had been expected to go safely past the islands, but it turned north, with Kauai and Niihau, a private island home to about 500 native Hawaiians, directly in its path.

State and federal officials said more damage and injury could have occurred had the storm hit further east on Kauai. As it was, the force of the hurricane swept over the western, most lightly populated part of the island, where there are vast fields of sugar cane and pineapples. Most tourist resorts and other development on the island of about 50,000 permanent residents are along the southern and eastern shores with heavy concentrations around Poipu and Lihue. More houses and resorts extend to the island's north shore and the low-lying town of Hanalei.

Federal officials cautioned yesterday that reports of injury and damage were sketchy because electrical power and telephone service on Kauai, knocked out even before the full force of the hurricane hit Friday afternoon, had not been restored, and state and federal officials were just beginning to assess the damage.

Oahu island's 800,000 residents took cover against fierce wind and large waves that washed over famed Waikiki Beach and flooded some hotels.

A Sheraton Hotel reservation agent said that the chain's five hotels on Oahu were unaffected, but that its hotel on the west side of Kauai was evacuated and that there had been no word from its hotel at Princeville.

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg was one of those caught on Kauai on what was to have been the last day of filming "Jurassic Park," an adaptation of a novel about dinosaurs. The 130 cast and crew members, including the stars of the film -- Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough -- waited out the storm in a hotel. "This was a real zinger," Spielberg told NBC News of the storm.

The White House said Bush had no immediate plans to go to the state to survey the damage as he did last month after Andrew ripped up Florida and Louisiana. But Federal Emergency Management Director Wallace E. Stickney and Patricia Saiki, head of the Small Business Administration and a former Republican representative from Hawaii, were scheduled to arrive in Honolulu yesterday afternoon.

FEMA officials, smarting from intense criticism for responding slowly in Florida, said disaster teams had been sent in advance of the storm and that two search and rescue teams were dispatched.

Lorri Jean, FEMA's deputy regional director in San Francisco, said FEMA early yesterday dispatched to Hawaii a military transport with 30 to 40 officials from several agencies, including the Public Health Service, the Transportation Department, the Forest Service and the American Red Cross.

Navy vessels loaded with food, water, trucks, tents and other relief supplies were standing off Kauai and poised to assist on shore.

A Pentagon spokesman said only light damage and no injuries were reported at the Navy's Barking Sands Missile Range facility on the northwestern side of Kauai beyond the town of Kekaha. But the Coast Guard reported that a military helicopter from Barking Sands was dispatched to rescue two injured people whose sailboat had demasted.

Damage was relatively minor on the southernmost island in the chain. Off the western shore of the island of Hawaii, called the Big Island because of its size, seas Friday were 10 feet and winds were about 40 mph. In Kona Harbor, three or four sailboats were tossed onto the rocks and one trimaran at another harbor was sunk, according to Bill Fountain, captain of the 110-foot Kona Aggressor charter boat. Fountain said the storm came around south end of the Big Island late Thursday night and spun north toward Kauai.

Civil Defense warnings went out at 5:30 a.m. Friday, and by 4 p.m. (10 p.m. EDT), the eye of Iniki, which means "sharp and piercing, as wind or pangs of love" in Hawaiian, was over Kauai, encompassing the island with its destructive winds.

© Copyright 1992 The Washington Post

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