Disaster fund needs emerge
Lawmakers pledge to get federal aid as victims document the loss of homes and livelihood
KILAUEA, Kauai » U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye toured the damaged areas of Kauai yesterday, pledging between $15 million and $30 million in possible federal disaster support.
Inouye said that while federal officials are still assessing the damage, he expects to get the assessment to Congress within two weeks so it can be included in the new fiscal year's budget. U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka visited earlier this week, and U.S. Rep. Ed Case made a trip to Kauai last weekend.
For many farmers and families on the North Shore, a year from now might be too late, Inouye added.
Ben Guevara, who has been staying at friends' houses since his house was destroyed in the March 14 Ka Loko Dam burst, was at the Disaster Assistance Recovery Center in the Kilauea Neighborhood Center, where 18 private and governmental agencies provided support for those who lost property and had flood damage.
The first calls for federal aid started yesterday, with Gov. Linda Lingle sending a request to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns for a disaster declaration, state officials said. The declaration would allow Kauai and Oahu farmers to apply for federal low-interest loans.
By 2 p.m., 37 people had signed in to the center, including Bruce Fehring, who lost his daughter and grandson when Ka Loko Dam broke. There was a line of more than a dozen people by 9:30 a.m., and state Civil Defense workers opened early to accommodate the crowd.
Guevara lived just a hundred yards upstream from the Fehring property, where two houses were swept away, leaving three dead and four missing and presumed dead.
Two bedrooms were sheared off Guevara's house, and his pool, pond, a few fruit trees and three-quarters of an acre of property were destroyed. Luckily, he and his wife were out of town, and returned the day of the flood to find the damage.
"It's a bit tough," he said, "but it could've been way worse."
Guevara said he, like most of his neighbors, did not have flood insurance because they did not live in a flood zone.
Those affected were supposed to provide pictures of the damage. Guevara used an aerial photo from the front page of the Star-Bulletin.
Guevara said he "filed all the paperwork he can find" with the disaster agencies, but "there's a lack of accountability at this point. We're left trying to figure out the proper direction."
With piles of debris where his yard used to be, swarms of mosquitos and a hideous smell, Guevara said there is no way he can clean up alone.
"We need state resources," he added.
Dennis Barretto of Kapaa lost his home site when a landslide took out 45 feet of fill. It is going to cost him more than $15,000 to replace the dirt.
"It has been hectic but I'm still alive," he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.