Search over for 4 missing people, Kauai mayor says
LIHUE » The search for the four people still missing from the Ka Loko Dam tragedy was called off at 3:30 p.m. yesterday, Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste announced.
The 40-plus searchers are "done and are 120 percent sure they have covered everything they can," Baptiste said at a joint news conference with state officials. The mayor added that the families were informed Monday of the decision that "if (the team) didn't find anything, (they) would wind down the search."
Seven people were swept away March 14 when the Ka Loko Dam near Kilauea broke, sending an estimated 300 million gallons of water rushing toward the sea. The bodies of victims Christina Macnees, Aurora Fehring and Alan Dingwall have been recovered, but the bodies of Daniel Arroyo, Timothy Noonan, Wayne Rotstein and Rowan Fehring-Dingwall have not been found.
At yesterday's news conference, state Civil Defense Vice Director Ed Teixeira noted that Kauai County has estimated $7.7 million in damage to property. An estimated 49 Kauai homes had sustained some kind of flooding damage as of yesterday afternoon, he said.
Teixeira said that Federal Emergency Management Agency teams will start a joint preliminary damage assessment today and finish by tomorrow. The assessment will allow state officials to decide whether to seek a federal disaster area declaration, and thus federal funding.
Teixeira added that assessments of flooded areas on Oahu's North Shore were finished Saturday.
State and federal dam teams, meanwhile, have completed their inspections of 54 Kauai dams, and there are a "couple that we have concerns on," said Bob Masuda, deputy director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
While the two reservoirs, Alexander mauka of Kalaheo, and the Twin Reservoir mauka of Kapaa, pose no immediate threat, "we would like to work on continuing to monitor" them, said Masuda.
Both dams are privately owned, and the owners are cooperating with the state "to remediate and take corrective action," Masuda said.
While Alexander has "external divots (on the dam) that need to be addressed," the reservoir is not near homes, the DLNR officials said.
Alexander will also be monitored via a radio transmitter, which is expected to be installed in the coming days.
At Twin Reservoir, maintained by the East Kauai Water Users Cooperative, inspectors are "giving it an extra look-over," Masuda added, although they "don't envision any" immediate problems.
Mary Daubert, county public information officer, said that engineers will also inspect Ahukini Reservoir, near Lihue Airport.
Teixeira noted that while dam safety has been "perennially on our radar screen," the recent tragedy certainly will make civil defense officials take a closer look at dam mitigation plans, making sure the dams have a good maintenance plan and that the state has a good warning system.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) also attended the press conference after touring the damage that recent rains and flooding have caused.
Akaka said he and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye offered a bill this past week, as part of the Dam Safety Act, to provide funding for dam assessment and to identify conditions of dams across the country.
While the rain continued to fall on Kauai yesterday, no new road closures were reported.
And Kauai tourism officials released a statement, "in response to numerous out-of-state calls," that Kauai is up and running again, with all roads open and all activities working again, said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau.