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Economic damage from isle tsunami spreads

By Dan Nakaso and Mary Vorsino

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:36 a.m. HST, Mar 15, 2011


The tsunami that struck Hawaii early Friday morning caused tens of millions of dollars in damage — an estimate that's expected to climb as Gov. Neil Abercrombie warned of a drop in Japanese tourists to the islands.

"The economic impact will be profound," Abercrombie said yesterday. "It's going to be terrible. It's going to be rough."

Abercrombie plans to fly to some of the hardest-hit areas of the neighbor islands after daybreak this morning to see first-hand the damage to businesses and hotels along Kailua-Kona's Alii Drive and to harbors on Maui, said Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, spokesman for the Hawaii National Guard, which will transport the governor.

As Japanese visitors cancel trips to Hawaii, Abercrombie said, he plans to ask the state Council on Revenues to reconvene to adjust economic projections to give the Legislature and state officials a better idea of what to expect from the drop in needed tourism dollars.

"It's almost a certainty the numbers will change," Abercrombie said.

Abercrombie also plans to meet with the heads of state departments to have frank discussions about where more money can be saved to help close Hawaii's budget deficit — projected at $964 million before the tsunami hit.

On Sunday, Abercrombie signed a supplementary proclamation to expand the State of Disaster Proclamation he signed on Friday. The proclamation is the first step toward seeking federal recovery funds, spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency will not immediately get involved in relief, she said.

MORE COVERAGE

» Tourism: Officials fear tourism will take a big hit.
» Airlines: Airlines add flights to accommodate stranded passengers in Hawaii.
» Autos: Hawaii dealers brace for impact as Japanese production shuts down.
» Radiation fears: State Health Department is monitoring radiation levels.

"We are very fortunate to have escaped a catastrophe," Dela Cruz said. "If we had (not), FEMA would have been on the ground."

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz will be in charge of overseeing efforts to ensure federal funds to help tsunami victims, including loans for businesses and residents through the Small Business Administration and other organizations.

The 300-slip Keehi Lagoon, Hawaii's second-largest harbor after the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, was the worst hit and sustained an estimated $3.08 million in damage, said Edward Underwood, boating division administrator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

A flyover of Keehi Lagoon revealed boats aground on Honolulu Airport's reef runway and nearby Slipper Island, Underwood said.

It will take months to clear Keehi Lagoon of debris and sunken boats — and even longer to rebuild the lagoon's floating dock system that tore away from its pilings and dragged boats apart during the tsunami, Underwood said.

"There's debris everywhere," he said. "I have a feeling that those ($3.08 million) costs are going to go up once we get into this. We still have to clear all the sunken boats because tugs can't get in there with all of the debris."

After Keehi Lagoon, Maalaea Small Boat Harbor on Maui appears to have been hit the hardest, although Underwood had no dollar estimate of the damage.

"A couple of hundred fish" of varying species also were discovered dead at Keehi Lagoon and Ala Wai Boat Harbor in a mass "fish kill," Underwood said.

A biologist checked the dead fish over the weekend but had no clear idea whether they died in the tsunami or from the subsequent release of oil, fuel and toxins from the sunken boats, said DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward.

State civil defense teams flew to Maui and Molokai yesterday to investigate reports of 20 or so damaged homes in Wailuku, Keehi and Spreckelsville and another eight on Molokai, said Shelly Ichishita, state civil defense spokeswoman.

"The most dramatic (damage) is the Alii Drive area" on the Big Island, Ichishita said. "They found a lot of damage at the Kona Inn, a historic facility with an outdoor restaurant and complex of shops, and about 50 businesses that have been impacted. A lot of it is basically water damage and a lot of stores do not have electricity. One shop alone is reporting inventory losses of $50,000 and there might be structural damage, too."

The entire first floor of the King Kamehameha Hotel on Alii Drive, except for one shop, was damaged, she said.

The sidewalk and portions of Alii Drive also were torn apart. Hawaii County's Department of Public Works closed both lanes of Alii Drive between Palani Road and Sarona Road for repairs yesterday.

There were also reports that Puuhonua O Honaunau, often referred to as the historic City of Refuge, had sensitive "cultural artifacts" uncovered by the tsunami, and Puuhonua O Honaunau has been closed "for sensitivity reasons," Ichishita said.

She did not immediately know what kind of cultural artifacts were uncovered.

The Ahuena heiau near Waikaloa also had damage to rock formations and statues, Ichishita said.

The Kona Village and Resort, which has 125 hale, or bungalows, for guests, had some hale knocked from their foundations and at least 20 were inundated with water, said CEO Pat Fitzgerald.

Some of the hale are 30 yards from shore, but the tsunami reached as far as 75 yards inland at a height of 7 to 8 feet, Fitzgerald said.

"The estimates are $300,000 to $400,000 to repair just one of the hale," Ichishita said.

Kelly Edwards, whose two-story, 3,200-square-foot home was dragged from its foundation into Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island, had no estimate yesterday of what it will cost to remove what remains of her $1.3 million beachfront home.

Lisa Denning, a professional marine photographer, and more than a dozen other freedivers helped clear the wreckage from the five-bedroom, five-bath house on Sunday from depths that varied from five to 35 feet.

"The house was no longer intact and the roof had separated from rest of house," Denning said. "The house was washing back and forth on the Pali and just crumbled. We pulled out toilets, a dishwasher full of dishes — and the kitchen sink."






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