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Damage comes into focus

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    At least seven homes on Kealakekua Bay, including this one, were destroyed when tsunami waves rolled in Friday.
    An estimated 200 boats were damaged Friday at Keehi Lagoon. An unidentified boater watched as boats at the La Mariana Sailing Club at the lagoon were torn loose from their moorings.
    Specialists with the 735th Air Mobility Squadron secured a generator for Japan earthquake relief to the floor of a C-17 yesterday at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Surveying and mop-up efforts kicked into high gear yesterday, a day after tsunami surges caused by the devastating earthquake in Japan wreaked havoc along several Hawaii coastlines.

Ed Teixeira, vice director of state Civil Defense, said Friday that the initial damage estimate to state land and facilities was at least $3 million. But that was before state Land Board Chairman William Aila spent yesterday touring damaged harbor and pier facilities along the Kona Coast.

"We have at least a minimum of $1 million in damage to (state) property, and that will probably go higher," Aila said.

The damage to the pier at Kailua-Kona alone will cost at least $500,000, he said.

As he spoke by phone with the Star-Advertiser, Aila surveyed a comfort station at the Keauhou Boat Ramp. The debris line showed water went as high as 3 feet in a structure that’s at least 100 yards inland, he said.

Civil Defense spokeswoman Shelly Ichishita said her agency is still trying to get a more complete picture of the damage so it can determine whether Gov. Neil Abercrombie should ask President Barack Obama for a presidential disaster declaration.

A 79-year-old male visitor from British Columbia, Canada, remained hospitalized yesterday after nearly drowning off Waikiki when a tsunami surge hit.

Jessica Lani Rich, president of the nonprofit Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, who spoke to the man’s wife, said he had been on a respirator but is now breathing on his own.

"She said he’s doing much better," Rich said.

Lifeguards revived the man after he was knocked down by the surge at 1 p.m. Friday, ocean safety Capt. Paul Merino said.

The near-drowning occurred off the beach fronting the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, he said.


» First Hawaiian Bank has established a Japan-Hawaii Relief Fund and has donated $100,000. All of the bank’s branches will accept donations until March 31. All contributions will go to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

» All branches of Central Pacific Bank through April 15. Checks should be made payable to the American Red Cross and the memo section of the check should include "Japan Earthquake."

» All branches of Hawaii National Bank. Donations go to the American Red Cross.

» Visit and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

» L&L Hawaiian Barbecue locations will collect donations for the American Red Cross relief effort for Japan. Make checks payable to the American Red Cross. No cash.

» Go to for links to charities providing relief.

"The water was waist-deep as it receded," he recalled. "It got sucked back with the high tide surge, and it came in and knocked him down and he rolled under the water. I’ve been a lifeguard 35 years in Waikiki and I’ve never seen it recede and come in as frequent with this force."

The surge then "swept 11 people off the beach while we were performing CPR" on the man, Merino said.

At Keehi Lagoon, where an estimated 200 boats were damaged, the Coast Guard began allowing small boats to enter at 4:30 p.m. yesterday, the first time since the tsunami, said Lt. j.g. Leigh Cotterell. Agreements were reached to allow most of the boats to dock at the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor and Kewalo Basin in the interim.

The state, however, was keeping larger tug-and-barges from entering the lagoon until debris could be cleared.

Cotterell said Coast Guard and state personnel worked with volunteers to clear damaged boats and debris from the waterway.

The 40-foot sailboat Feala, the subject of a Honolulu Fire Department search for several hours Friday night, was towed in safely by a salvage vehicle.

The American Red Cross Hawaii Chapter sent out its crews to assist families in 42 homes statewide — three of them destroyed and 20 with major damage, said Coralie Chun Matayoshi, chief executive officer.

"We did a damage assessment yesterday," she said. "Now we’re going to see what (victims) really need."

With the help of Coast Guard vessels, volunteers also went out to distribute food to people aboard about 25 boats displaced from Keehi Small Boat Harbor.

Things began to get back to normal at Honolulu Airport, where on Friday 15 flights to Hawaii and 16 flights to Japan were canceled. Yesterday, only two of 17 flights coming in from Japan were canceled — both Delta Airlines flights out of Narita. Fifteen planes, as well as an Japan Airlines plane that came in empty, returned to Japan, said Dan Meisenzahl, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile yesterday, a C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet carrying a team of 20 Pacific Air Forces airmen left Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for Yokota Air Base, Japan, to support disaster relief efforts.

ON THE BIG ISLAND, the force of the tsunami at Kealakekua Bay lifted a four-wheel, all-terrain vehicle over a building and deposited it in a 10-foot-tall tree at the home of Gordon Leslie, said Leslie’s daughter, Tasha Shanahan.

The tsunami also knocked Leslie’s home from its foundation and left dead fish — yellow tangs — inside the water-soaked bedrooms, Shanahan said.

His well-known 12-year-old donkey, Lia, a fixture in the community, was found on her back in the debris, trapped amid rubble until family members pulled her out with ropes.

"Everybody in the village has been asking about the donkey," Shanahan said. "When we found her, it was like, ‘Oh, you dumb donkey, you made it.’"

But it was the discovery of the ATV in the tree that made Shanahan realize how much force the tsunami generated.

The ATV belongs to her son, Nalu Leslie, 21.

"It gave us a sense of the force and level of the water," Shanahan said. "All that water then went into and out of the house and spun it off the foundation. It’s a total loss."

Leslie has no insurance for his home.

Leslie, 63, would have stayed until an hour before the tsunami hit. But he was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia and flew to Oahu on Tuesday for 28 days of chemotherapy at the Queen’s Medical Center beginning Thursday, just hours before the tsunami hit his home on the Big Island.

"That’s life," Leslie said from his hospital room yesterday. "I’ve been in tsunami situations all my life. I would not disobey an evacuation order, but I would stay around until the last hour."

His father wanted to build his own home on the land until the 1960 Chilean earthquake generated a tsunami that struck Kealakekua Bay.

Henry "Paidy" Leslie Jr., a widely known fisherman in the area, then gave the land to Gordon on the condition that he build a modest home and plant plenty of coconut trees to deflect the force of the next tsunami.

"He made me promise him not to invest in an expensive house," Leslie said. "His words were, ‘The water’s going to come. We don’t know when, but it’s going to come.’"

Leslie had bad news for his neighbor, Kelly Edwards, who bought a house in 2000 but lives in Salinas, Calif.

"Gordon called me and said my house is gone and I said, ‘What do you mean, it’s gone?’" Edwards said by telephone. "It’s just kind of surreal. I don’t know any way to explain it."

Initial photos showed the windows and roof of the 3,200-square-foot, two-story home above water. The water level has since risen to the roof line — or the home has since sunk, Edwards said.

"We didn’t know when we bought it, but over the years we heard the stories of tsunamis," Edwards said. "You live on an island. It’s the risk you take."

Her insurance on the $1.3 million home is capped at $250,000, Edwards said.

With two teenage daughters in school, Edwards isn’t certain when she can fly to the Big Island to survey the damage, but hopes to arrive in 10 days or so.

"How do you go get a house out of a bay?" she asked. "It’s nothing I’ve experienced before, that’s for sure."

IN SOUTH KONA, there was flooding at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Park. There was also extensive damage to seven homes in the area as well as nine vehicles, including one in the water, and downed power lines, said Ichishita, the state Civil Defense spokeswoman. A church hall on Puuhonua Road also was damaged extensively.

In the Alii Drive section of Kailua-Kona, one single-family home was destroyed and another sustained major damage. Six apartment or condominium units were damaged extensively and 19 had minor damage, Ichishita said.

A county-owned pump station on Alii Drive was damaged but remained operable. At the historic Kailua Pier, public restroom facilities were damaged, as were roadways, sidewalks and the seawall.

The inside of the pier’s administrative building was significantly damaged, Aila said.

The pier is also where a cruise ship docks. A stopover scheduled for Wednesday has already been canceled and the goal is to make the pier safe by the time the ship returns next week, Aila said.

Hulihee Summer Palace, owned by the state and operated by a nonprofit, also sustained extensive damage.

Several Kona-Kohala hotels sustained various amounts of damage.

A good portion of the lobby of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel was flooded.

The Kona Village Resort reported 20 of their individual bungalows damaged, some of them off of their foundations, while two of its restaurants were flooded, Ichishita said. Also sustaining damage were the Four Seasons Resort at Hualalai, Hilton Waikoloa Beach Hotel and the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel.

On Maui, 11 homes in Wailuku sustained various degrees of damage as did two in Kihei, Ichishita said. Six homes were damaged on Molokai, including one that was taken off its foundation.

Star-Advertiser reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.


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