An old coffee shack on Hawaii Belt Road, just above Kailua-Kona, lay partially collapsed yesterday after it slid down a hill during the earthquakes that shook Hawaii. Roads in several places on the Big Island were closed for hours after the earthquakes as county crews worked to clear the debris. The state Civil Defense had unconfirmed reports of injuries, but there were no reports of fatalities. A disaster declaration was declared for the entire state, citing damage to buildings and roads. CLICK FOR LARGE
Big Isle takes brunt
Temblors cause evacuations, harbor closure, but no fatalities
KAILUA-KONA » Structural damage from yesterday's earthquakes and a series of aftershocks forced the evacuation of at least one condominium building, the relocation of patients from several care facilities and the indefinite closure of Kawaihae Harbor, authorities said.
However, there were no fatalities reported as a result of the 6.6-magnitude quake that struck the Big Island at 7:07 a.m. and the 5.8-magnitude temblor that hit seven minutes later.
Government officials are scheduled to begin assessing the damage today.
"That should begin at first light," said Janet Snyder, an aide to Hawaii Mayor Harry Kim.
As of last night there had been no cost estimate placed on the damage, Snyder said.
Gov. Linda Lingle has already declared the state a disaster area, clearing the way for federal assistance to areas hit hardest by the quakes.
At Kona Community Hospital, ceiling tile fell, plaster was chipped, books fell off shelves and pictures came off walls, acting spokeswoman Terry Lewis said.
An engineer sent by Hawaii County Civil Defense determined that there was no damage at any of the hospital's four buildings, but a second engineer was to be called in today to double-check, Lewis said.
Sixty-nine hospital patients, 30 in long-term care, were transported to the Keauhou Sheraton Conference Center, along with their hospital beds, Lewis said.
Another six acute-care patients were flown to Hilo Medical Center in a Coast Guard C-130 airplane sent from Honolulu.
"This is stressful for the patients, but at least they will be safe," she said.
A Honokaa long-term care facility suffered water damage from sprinkler systems going off after the quakes, Snyder said. About 49 patients were transferred across the care home's parking lot to an old infirmary that was recently renovated.
"We have anecdotal and scattered reports of people's houses having damage," Snyder added.
At the Paniolo Club Condominium in Waikoloa, structural damage forced the evacuation of about 60 residents, she said. She did not know the extent of the damage.
The quake also caused structural damage to the pier at Kawaihae Harbor.
"We're going to have to do an underwater study to survey the extent of the damage," Snyder said, adding that the harbor is closed until further notice.
The quakes cracked exterior walls and damaged the Hulihee Palace in Kailua-Kona.
Photos of the damage show chunks of ceiling that crashed onto antique furniture and the floor.
Diane George, left, and Stephanie Hart of Kona waited yesterday at Honolulu Airport after two earthquakes shook Hawaii. Power was at least partially knocked out on several islands. Airports were functioning despite the power failures, though slowly. CLICK FOR LARGE
The palace was a former vacation residence for Hawaiian royalty and is run as a museum by the Daughters of Hawaii.
Kona resident Danny Garcia said: "When the first boom hit, I was in my recliner and looked at my wife and was about to tell her, 'Wow, that was a big one,' when the house just kept shaking. The shakes came in waves, about every five-10 seconds, and varied in intensity.
"There were about four or five shakes lasting anywhere from three to eight seconds. There were two long and hard shakes that sent dishes, shelves, vases, pictures, bookshelves and whatever loose objects crashing. We huddled up near the sliding door to the lanai in shock. My girls began to cry, and my wife and I were trying to figure out what just happened," he said.
Kailua Wal-Mart employee Michael Thomas had finished his night shift and just walked out of the building when the first quake hit.
"It was a pretty bad shake. It was an adrenaline rush," he said.
As the quake went on and on, he started to wonder if he would be able to stay on his feet. He heard later that an old man inside the store was so shaken he was holding onto another customer to keep from falling.
After it was over, customers and other employees came out of the building, but no one was allowed back inside, he said.
Wal-Mart officials were unavailable for comment on whether the building suffered any structural damage, but Thomas said the building had just completed structural improvements a few months ago.
Thomas said he heard a lot of things were knocked off shelves, and he was called back to work to help with cleanup.
Having some first-aid training, he stayed outside the Wal-Mart building in case he was needed and then rode his motor scooter along Alii Drive, Kailua's main tourism street, in case there were injuries.
He found none.
Next to the Wal-Mart, at Safeway, about a dozen large but lightweight tiles fell from the metal framework of a dropped ceiling.
The store manager declined to comment on the damage.
By nightfall the nearby Sack 'N Save market was limiting the number of shoppers entering the store. An employee at the door said the store was understaffed because several workers stayed home to be with their families.
At Killer Tacos restaurant, owner Chris Bair eyed big holes in his ceiling where large tiles dropped out.
"I don't mind a cleanup, because it could have been a lot worse," he said. "We're glad everybody is OK. So many people have come by to make sure we're OK, I just wish we were open today."
Bair said he estimated losses and damage at $8,000 to $10,000, including replacing ceiling tiles and the contents of a beverage cooler.
"There was Pepsi everywhere," he said.
Local and visiting athletes were set to begin a fundraiser fun run for Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii.
"We heard the boom first, and everything started shaking and it just got worse," said Rick Merschdorf, 55, of Kona. "I was thinking people needed to get out of here in case of a tsunami. Some people were screaming but it was pretty orderly."
Many of the runners jumped in their cars and took off for higher ground, but they quickly returned and the run began almost on time.
Water pipes exploded at Aston Kona by the Sea, an 86-unit condominium resort, creating a dramatic waterfall down the front of the hotel from the fourth floor, said Kenneth Piper, who runs the front desk.
"We are a concrete building but we really shook. You could almost see the cars bouncing up and down in the parking garage," he said.
Lewis, the Kona Hospital spokeswoman, said she is from upstate New York and had never experienced an earthquake.
"It was pretty scary," she said.
Star-Bulletin reporter B.J. Reyes and the Associated Press contributed to this report.