THE KAUAI DAM TRAGEDY
Mud and debris from the collapsed dam covered a road yesterday in Kilauea on Kauai. Tuesday's deadly torrent has raised fears about the safety of dozens of similar dams across Hawaii. (Click for Large Version
» The bodies of two of the missing seven are found as the search resumes today
» Pumps keep worrisome reservoirs in check and the highway reopens
KILAUEA, Kauai » Five people, including a 2-year-old boy, remain missing after Tuesday's Ka Loko Dam breach, unleashing devastating flood waters down Wailapa Stream and erasing two homes.
The body of a woman was found in a stream bed by members of a state rescue task force yesterday afternoon, county officials said. On Tuesday, a man's body was found nearly a mile away, in the ocean fronting the mouth of the 100-yard wide path of destruction. Neither victim was identified.
Kauai police officials listed the missing as Daniel Arroyo, Alan Dingwall, Aurora Fehring, Rowan Fehring-Dingwall, Christina Macnees, Timothy Noonan, and Wayne Rotstein. Most are residents of Wailapa Road, which borders the stream, officials said.
The search for five remaining victims was stopped at dusk, but will resume tomorrow.
Coast Guard helicopters remained airborne for most of yesterday, while a cutter patrolled the waters around Kilauea Bay.
Nearer to where the houses used to stand, 24 members of the Hawaii Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, including five search and rescue dogs, eight dog handlers, and firefighters and emergency medical technicians from Kauai and Oahu, looked for victims.
There was a little good news from Kauai's north shore: a stretch of Kuhio Highway, connecting Princeville, Hanalei and Haena to the rest of the island, was reopened by 4:15 p.m. yesterday, with mail, food and gasoline trucks coming in to the north shore first, about an hour earlier.
Gov. Linda Lingle, accompanied by Kauai politicians and Maj. Gen. Bob Lee of the Hawaii National Guard, also took a tour of the Kilauea region and gave residents some hope that things would return to normal as soon as possible.
"I know everybody has had a hard 36 hours," Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste said to the Kilauea audience. "Mother Nature has got more power than we do."
And Mother Nature added a few more difficulties yesterday.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kilauea residents Rond and Betty Hadley, right, and Julie Tangelder expressed looks of concern during Gov. Linda Lingle's visit yesterday at the Kilauea Community Center.
Rains hampered search efforts Tuesday, and again yesterday afternoon, also slowing progress on the highway repair.
Officials worried Tuesday about the fate of nearby Morita Reservoir, but yesterday they said spillway features, as well as pumps on the Morita Dam, had effectively dropped the water to a safe level.
Meanwhile, officials closely monitored the even bigger Waita Reservoir, on Kauai's south side.
Baptiste noted that more heavy rain could cause more problems and forecasters say showers are possible through tomorrow.
Kilauea residents, meanwhile, pressed their elected officials on how a tragedy like this could happen.
"It seems to me that the damage that occurred (was caused) by inaction and the action of a man," said Linda Pasadava, president of the Kilauea Neighborhood Association.
While some blamed the Department of Land and Natural Resources for its lack of oversight, many residents were angry with James Pflueger, owner of at least part of the Ka Loko Reservoir.
Last week, Pflueger, as part of a civil settlement, agreed to pay $7.5 million in penalties and remediation efforts, including work on Ka Loko. But Environmental Protection Agency officials said the illegal grading work for which Pflueger was cited occurred on the other side of the reservoir from the dam.
Pflueger, however, in a statement said that no work was done on the dam site and that no government agencies had mentioned the dam as a problem.
Nonetheless, Lingle, state Rep. Mina Morita, who represents the north shore, and Kauai's lone state senator, Gary Hooser, said that an investigation will occur to find out what happened.
"We are looking forward to finding solutions so that this kind of tragedy doesn't happen again," Hooser said.
Lingle said an expert in dam engineering was expected by yesterday afternoon, and members of the attorney general's staff were also on Kauai to investigate. She added that any information uncovered would be shared with the Kilauea public.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Travelers waited for hours yesterday before the reopening of Kuhio Highway, and many stood outside during brief periods of sunshine interrupting the rain that continued to pound Kauai. The closure caused hundreds of travel delays to both tourists and residents.
DLNR Director Peter Young said in a statement that four DLNR civil engineers helped assess all 60 dams on Kauai Tuesday, and three were at it again yesterday. He added that he was unsure whether they had finished their work or would be back on Kauai today.
After the hour-long Kilauea meeting, Lingle, members of the media, and Kauai representatives toured the wrecked area of Kuhio Highway before heading back to Lihue and the Emergency Operation Center.
The force of the flood ripped the asphalt off a 40-foot wide section of Kuhio Highway before it struck the two houses, said Brendan Morioka, deputy director of the state Transportation Department. It also damaged the foundation of the road, and completely washed out the road's shoulders, leaving a 30-foot drop on each side.
State and county workers, as well as a private crew, were able to get only one lane of the highway functioning by yesterday. Large concrete barriers were placed on each side of the road, and the road was quickly repaved and topped with steel plates.
State Transportation Department spokesman Scott Ishikawa said that workers would inspect the road again today to see if a second lane could be added.
"Slow going is better than no going, at this point," he added.
For the thousands of tourists and residents stranded, anything was better than being stuck on the north shore.
While tourists tried to get on the few helicopter flights out of Princeville Airport, at least one desperate resident waded across the murky, debris-filled mouth of Kilauea Stream and hitchhiked to Lihue.
The blocked access on the only highway to the North Shore left area residents cut off from mail, gas and supplies.
U.S. Postal Service officials said it will reopen the Hanalei, Princeville and Kilauea post offices as soon as it is safe to do so. Mail destined for those post offices had been held in Lihue.
No one has been able to assess the damage at the three post offices because all of the employees who work there live south of where the flood waters cut through Kuhio Highway, Postal Service spokesman Duke Gonzales said yesterday.
And the Chevron station in Kilauea ran out of gas.
"This morning, everybody heard we were kind of low," said Travis Stephen, who was working at the Chevron station. "Everybody kind of panicked."
Stephen, a former employee who lives in Haena, was drafted into service at the station yesterday.
"A lot of workers can't get here," he said. "They got stuck on the other side."
Police escorted Chevron's fuel truck and a couple of Matson trucks, and the station received its delivery at 3 p.m., Stephen said.
Grocery stores also reported high demand for essentials.
Sheryl Toda, director of corporate communications for Foodland Super Market, said the Princeville store had enough products for the next few days and another load was scheduled to come soon.
"The store was very, very busy (Tuesday)," she said. "It slowed down a little bit today. Customers have been buying water, toilet paper, bread, some meats, canned goods."
"A lot of our employees could not go to work yesterday," she said. "We were able to serve our customers with the employees that did arrive."
Star-Bulletin reporters Leila Fujimori and Nelson Daranciang contributed to this report.