Archive for Wednesday, March 15, 2006

One dead, 7 missing after dam bursts in Hawaii

March 15, 2006

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— An earthen dam burst Tuesday on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, sweeping away houses in a torrent of water 150 yards across. One person was killed and as many as seven others were reported missing.

The Kaloko Reservoir dam gave way without warning after days of heavy rain, washing out the island's main coastal highway used by thousands of residents and tourists.

Search crews recovered an unidentified body, Coast Guard spokesman Michael De Nyse said. Helicopters continued the search for victims in the debris and the floodwaters that ran into the Pacific, three miles from the burst dam.

State Rep. Hermina Morita, whose district includes the area where the dam failed, said a constituent who had spent the night away from home returned and was searching for four family members.

There was no warning about the dam's strength or the amount of water in the reservoir behind it, Morita said.

"I think everybody was taken by surprise," she said.

Tom Pickett, owner of a bakery and pizzeria in the community of Kilauea, said many of his employees could not get to work from the other side of the massive break in the highway.

"A pretty big piece of highway is gone," he said. "Everything washed out of that valley."

Two schools were being used as emergency shelters.

Roy Matsuda, lead forecaster at the Honolulu office of the National Weather Service, said a storm dumped 5 to 6 inches of rain on Kauai in the last 24 hours.

"Kauai has been fully saturated," he said. He said the storm had left Kauai but was heading east toward the island of Oahu.

The weather service issued a flood warning for the entire state, cautioning residents of the threat of flooding.

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