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State estimates tsunami damage at $3 million or more

    State Deputy Civil Defense Director Ed Teixeira and Gov. Neil Abercrombie meet with reporters to announce downgrading of Thursday's tsunami warning.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today issued an emergency proclamation allowing the state to seek federal resources to aid recovery efforts.

“The emergency proclamation enables us to maximize our opportunities to get federal assistance and other such assistance that might not otherwise be available,” Abercrombie said at an afternoon news conference in his office.

He said he expected the full support of the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the White House, adding that President Barack Obama’s staff had been in touch with state officials during the tsunami activity.

“The Obama administration will help us, there’s no question about that,” Abercrombie said.

He estimate the damage “in the millions.”

“This is going to be a considerable financial burden to assume so we’re going to try to maximize the opportunities to share those costs with the appropriate agencies,” he added.

Ed Teixeira, vice director of State Civil Defense, said initial damage estimates to land and facilities under the purview of the state are at least $3 million. Damage to private properties was still being assessed.

Teixeira said the biggest trouble spots on Oahu were in Haleiwa, where a small boat harbor was damaged, and Keehi Lagoon, where public infrastructure and privately owned piers suffered damage estimated in the millions of dollars. Damages at Keehi were estimated to be at least $1 million to state property and higher for private property.

Initial reports from the Big Island indicated wave heights of 11 to 12 feet high in Kealakekua Bay, where seven homes were flooded and one was “dragged out to sea,” Teixeira said. Nine cars also were flooded with one dragged into the bay, he added. Cost for debris removal is estimated at about $250,000.

Kailua-Kona Pier, which rises about 12 feet high, was covered by water at one point, Teixeira said, and Hulihee Palace also suffered flood damage to the main structure and two ancillary buildings.

“We think it’s prudent to initiate an emergency proclamation so that we have at least the initial resources to go into and begin to recover from a tsunami,” Teixeira said.

Abercrombie praised the response from emergency officials at all levels of government, saying all were in constant communication from the time the first warnings were issued.

He also applauded the tourism industry, particularly local hotels, for having orderly evacuations and seeing to the needs of visitors.

“It was truly a coordinated effort and response,” said Mike McCartney, president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Though Japan is a core market for Hawaii, McCartney said the HTA’s first priority was seeing to the needs of Japanese visitors here in the islands and assisting them in any way possible.

The message to all other tourism markets: Hawaii is open for business.

“Japan, our hearts go out to them and we’re going to continue to work with them to get through this together,” McCartney said. “In the other markets: We’re open for business.

“Our hotels are open. Our airlines are open and we welcome visitors to Hawaii.”

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