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Hawaii tsunami 2011: The aftermath

Debris litters Alii Drive (Photo courtesy of Joel Noa)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

A mere 12 hours after tsunami waves began creeping up on Hawaii’s shores, the damage assessment and clean up is well underway.

Homes and businesses along Alii Drive and the Kona Coast appear to be among the hardest hit in the state. Although an evacuation order spared lives, that didn’t stop the Pacific Ocean from thumping anything and everything along the state’s shorelines.

Authorities have reopened all of Alii Drive.

Yup. That is Kailua Pier under there somewhere. (Photo courtesy of Joel Noa)

Here’s what’s going on now:

5:4 p.m. Friday

County crews reopen roads, assess damage to homes, businesses, public facilities

County Public Works crews worked quickly Friday to clear and reopen Kona roads to allow for detailed assessments of damage, and to clear the way for the public to return to most areas that were closed early this morning as a damaging tsunami approached the Hawaiian Islands.

County Civil Defense Administrator Quince Mento predicted the damage from the tsunami to homes, businesses, roads and other infrastructure on the Big Island will total millions of dollars.

Mayor Billy Kenoi thanked residents for their cooperation and calm as the tsunami approached, noting that the evacuation and preparations for the arrival of the tsunami were executed quickly and safely.

The tsunami resulted in no deaths in the County of Hawaii, although there was one injury. A county Public Works Highways Division employee was found unconscious early Friday with a head injury, and was taken to Kona Community Hospital for observation.

“I am proud of the way our community pulled together to answer this threat, and I am proud of the efficient, rapid response to this event by our state, federal and county employees,” Kenoi said. “Our community knew what to do, and our residents did what was necessary without hesitation, and without complaint. I am very concerned about the preliminary damage reports that are coming in, but we all recognize that this could have been much worse. We were very lucky.”

The mayor spoke Friday with Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki in Washington, D.C. and expressed his condolences.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan who have lost loved ones and are suffering terribly in the aftermath of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake,” Kenoi said.

County Police, Fire, Public Works and Environmental Management crews worked with state Highways, the American Red Cross and the county Office of Housing and Community Development to conduct preliminary damage assessments.

Their findings include the following reports:

Seven homes suffered extensive damage on Manini Beach Road near Kealakekua Bay. Power lines also were downed in the area.

One two-story home at Kealakekua Bay was reported completely washed away, and a number of vehicles in the area were damaged.

King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel on Alii Drive suffered extensive water damage to its ground floor, and observers reported possible damage to the Ahuena Heiau on the hotel grounds. Shops across Alii Drive from King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel also suffered extensive damage.

Large amounts of asphalt, concrete and other debris were thrown onto Alii Drive near the hotel and near the breakwall at the edge of Alii Drive. The road was completely reopened before 5 p.m. Friday.

Large amounts of debris were also deposited on Kailua Pier, and two vehicles left parked on the pier were damaged when the tsunami pushed them across the pier.

A hall at Puuhonua Road suffered severe damage, while the Puu O Honaunau National Historic Park (City of Refuge) also reported flooding.

There were no sewer spills reported, but the county Department of Environmental Management reported water damage to a sewer pump station near King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

Extensive damage was reported to businesses on both sides of Ali‘i Drive, including the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, the ground floor of the Kona Reef Hotel, and the Kona Inn Restaurant.

The last open county shelter was closed at about noon Friday after guests who had been evacuated from the King Kamehameha were relocated to a new hotel.

In Kailua-Kona, crews reported one single-family home was destroyed, and one suffered major damage. Six Kailua apartments or condominiums suffered major damage, and 19 had minor damage.

The Kona Village Resort had 20 guest units damaged when they were lifted off their foundations. Two restaurants at the resort were flooded.

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai reported water damage to utility buildings, pools and damage to a restaurant at the resort.

Ahuena Heiau (Photo courtesy of Joel Noa)

First Hawaiian Bank has established Japan-Hawaii Relief Fund to assist the survivors of the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

First Hawaiian Bank has donated $100,000 to the fund.

All contributions to the fund will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society, said Don Horner, First Hawaiian Bank chairman and chief executive officer.

Those interested in making a contribution to the Japan-Hawaii Relief Fund may do so at any First Hawaiian Bank branch through March 31.

“Hawaii has strong ties and friendships with the people of Japan. Our hearts and prayers go out to the survivors of this tragic disaster,” Horner said. “One hundred percent of these donations will go directly to the Japanese Red Cross to support the victims and their families.”

Report from Hulihee Palace:

The main floors of Hulihee Palace were spared the wrath of this morning’s tsunami, which inundated Ali‘i Drive in Kailua Village. While the basement of the palace is flooded, there was no water damage to the first floor of the seaside historic landmark.

“From what we can see with the naked eye, it looks like we’re okay,” said long-time palace administrator Fanny Au Hoy. She said plans are in the works to pump water out of the basement and a structural inspection will need to be completed.

The palace’s newly renovated caretaker cottage didn’t fare so well. It is off its foundation and the adjacent Kiope Pond, which was used in ancient times by Hawaiian royalty for aquaculture, suffered damage to its mauka wall.

“It looks like water came into the pond, surged, and then washed under the cottage,” Au Hoy said.

The next-door Kuakini Building, which houses the palace’s kitchen and gift shop, suffered interior water damage. The top of the seawall along the oceanside lawn of the palace was also damaged.

Au Hoy reports several treasured artifacts were removed from the landmark last night in anticipation of the tsunami. “We filled three vehicles,” she said.

The palace, which is managed by the Daughters of Hawaii, will remain closed until further notice.

Report from Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa: Sheraton Keauhou Bay was well protected by the lava cliffs and sustained no damage at all from the tsunami. Guests temporarily evacuated but all have been safely returned. Thoughts and prayers to our friends in Japan.

Report from Mauna Kea Beach Hotel: The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is doing fine and it is business as usual. We were lucky to escape any damages caused by the tsunami and are thankful there was no harm to our guests or property. We are thinking postive thoughts about those in Japan.

Report from Hawaii Island Humane Society: At 1:30 a.m. Friday the Kona shelter was evacuated. Thanks to hard working, quick-thinking staff who conducted a smooth evacuation, to Duane Mendoza for working with Hawaii County civil defense & Alii Veterinary Hospital for their assistance. HIHS will always put the animals first & they are all now safely returned to the shelter since the “all clear” was issued.

Report from Cindy Coats Gallery: Utter destruction at the gallery. Lost everything…… But no one hurt. We will return.

Report from The Kohala Center: Regret to announce Mike Matsukawa’s talk on “Judicial Imprints in Hawaiian History” has been postponed due to the closure of the hotel. The talk, which was originally scheduled for 5:30 Friday, March 11 at the Keauhou Beach Resort, will be rescheduled. For updates, see

Report from Kona Brewers Festival: All events surrounding the Kona Brewers Festival, including the Run for Hops, are still on with times unchanged. To our many community volunteers, yes, we still need you. Please come to Kona Brewing Company at your assigned time and check in with your team leader. Plans are underway for earmarking funds for relief efforts on the Big Island. We are truly humbled by the forces of nature.

Report from PATH (People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawai): Yes … Run For Hops is on! No major course changes … start and finish will be in the Brewers Block Makai parking lot just before Kona Brewing Company, just like last year parking available at Big Island Honda, Big Mahalos to Team Honda! Only part of the event that is cancelled is the Keiki Bike Rodeo due to limited space.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie presented this proclamation to the Consulate General of Japan for the citizens, residents, and government of Japan:

County parks remained closed Friday, creating ghost parks. Jock Goodman shared this photos of Kahaluu Beach Park.

(Photo courtesy of Jock Goodman)

(Photo courtesy of Jock Goodman)

(Photo courtesy of Jock Goodman)

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