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Visitors praise handling of Waikiki evacuation

Visitors in Waikiki huddled in high-rise parking garages and ballrooms or in hotel rooms and other accommodations four stories or higher, as the tsunami  waves from the Japan earthquake approached Hawaii.

Although some missed their tours and airline flights home, visitors said they were happy no one was injured in Waikiki because of the tsunami and they had high praise for the way hotel staff and police handled the evacuation.

“It was a perfect example of  aloha. … It was a good vibe. People took it seriously,” said Mike Mullin, a South Dakota visitor who was visiting with his wife Carol.

“We were quite impressed by the way they talked about the evacuation.”

Honeymooners Kenneth Canfield and his wife Christi of Washington state said they were among the more than 100 guests from the Moana Surfrider Hotel who were escorted across Kalakaua to a high-rise Sheraton ballroom for the night.

“I think it was handled very professionally,” Kenneth Canfield said. “Waikiki P.D. (police) did a very good job.”

Canfield said the Moana provided guests with complimentary breakfast with fresh fruit.

Eri Ishihara and her friend Ryota said they were scheduled to fly back to Japan yesterday but their flight on Japan Air Lines was canceled because of the tsunami.

Ishihara was on her way to talk to travel agents to see if they might be able to secure a flight, without additional expenses.

“I am worried we can’t go back Japan,” she said. “We don’t have money.”

Marsha Barry of Phoenix, Ariz., said she and her friend Jill Troup were vacationing in the 50th state to celebrate Troup’s 50th birthday.

Troup said she was grateful no one was hurt in the tsunami in Waikiki.

She said she feared her 50th birthday might end badly for the 50th state.
“I thought, ‘Oh, there goes Hawaii,’ ” she said.

Michigan visitors Vickie Morren and Carol Roslanic couldn’t believe their timing for a vacation. They were in Hawaii when the last tsunami evacuation happened in February 2010.

“This is so weird. We were here for the last one,” Morren said.

The two decided to move from their two-story hotel to a nearby 10-story parking garage near the Sheraton Waikiki.

Morren said she’s afraid of severe weather, the kind that occurs in Michigan in winter months, and has traveled thousands of miles to be in the last tsunami.

“I was very frightened. It left me unhinged,” she said.

As the traffic thinned to a few cars at stop lights through Waikiki close to midnight, lines formed outside the only convenience store opened in the Sheraton Waikiki.

People were buying water, soft drinks, fruit and chips.

John O’Dea of Vancouver, Canada said he had arrived just a couple of hours before with his wife and two children and had a question to the flight crew upon landing.

“I asked why don’t you turn around,” he said.

Odea said he was told by hotel officials to remain on the fourth floor or higher and he was thinking maybe he’ll go up a floor to the fifth, just in case.

Mike Mullin said the evacuation went better here than when they have tornado warnings in South Dakota, when communication with the radio station cuts off five minutes before the tornado is about to hit.

He said communications at the TV and radio stations continued here nonstop.

He and his wife were having an early morning stroll down Kalakaua Avenue.

“We could be in snow,” he said.

His wife Carol added, “We are blessed.”

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