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Boaters bemoan lack of aid

The state says it is doing all it can to help owners who suffered losses in the tsunami

By Leila Fujimori

LAST UPDATED: 1:57 a.m. HST, Apr 8, 2011

About 70 current and former boat owners expressed anger and frustration yesterday with their inability to get help for their losses in last month's tsunami.

State Civil Defense Vice Director Ed Teixeira told the boaters, "I feel your pain."

But Bill Jordan, 63, a disabled veteran whose 27-foot powerboat sank during the tsunami, cried out, "We lost everything."

Teixeira said that Civil Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have followed up on the losses in harbors and that the governor signed two emergency declarations. But he said that since not enough people who lost their boats actually lived on them — two families in Keehi, four in Wai­anae, one in the Ala Wai — FEMA will not provide for their individual losses, but said the state continues to pursue federal assistance, which could help with individual claims in addition to repairs to the state's harbors.

Jordan shouted, "A lot of people don't report. They don't have a place to live anymore. They're homeless now. My boat's gone. … Within 30 seconds everything was gone for me. There's other people out there, and you guys are not doing anything. They told me to go to the homeless shelter."

Half-sunken boats were still visible in Keehi Lagoon yesterday. The mast of one boat protruded from the water in the La Mari­ana Sailing Club marina. Sections of docks broken off and other debris lingered in the harbor, outside the reef and near the reef runway and the little islands off Keehi Lagoon.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie responded to other criticisms and concerns, saying, "We're not infallible. That's why we're here tonight … in a good-faith effort to try to respond."

Abercrombie said he was also requesting legal services and talking to insurance companies to assist in ensuring claims are paid. He told the crowd that FEMA responded instantaneously and said, "I have to make these claims in a way that is legitimate and justifiable."

Attendees aired other concerns, some unrelated to the destruction caused by the tsunami.

One woman asked why the state was not providing temporary slips for boats displaced after the tsunami destroyed public and private docks.

Board of Land and Natural Resources Chairman William Aila said an area in Keehi with mooring lines was available, but the state could not afford to create temporary floating docks.

Aila said the state has $3 million in repairs to the state's harbors and that if individual boat owners do not remove their sunken boats, of which there are at least 15 in Keehi now, the state is responsible for clearing the waterways and will later have to go after boat owners to recover its costs.

He urged boat owners to do so quickly.

Several, however, did not have insurance.

Christopher Crane, 33, said his 40-foot sailboat was "cut free from the mooring, dragged out to the sandbar and stripped" by someone. He said he called police, the Coast Guard and Department of Land and Natural Resources, but everyone told him it wasn't their jurisdiction. Eventually the DLNR took a report, but no one has yet come out to see his boat, he said.

Abercrombie expressed concern, saying, "We'll do everything we can to make sure you're secure in your property and person."

Another asked how to file a claim for damages with the state. Teixeira said he will make sure state forms are at the harbors.

But Ed Underwood, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation chief, told the Star-Advertiser, "How is the state responsible for the tsunami?"

For information, call Underwood at 587-1966.

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