AGUSTIN TABARES / ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tourists posed for pictures yesterday on an earthquake-damaged section of road at the Pololu Valley Lookout in the Kohala Forest Reserve near Kapaau. CLICK FOR LARGE
Assessing the damage likely to take weeks
Schools, hospitals declared safe so far
BIG ISLAND officials scrambled yesterday to review the property damage sustained in Sunday's earthquakes, adding that it will likely take weeks to finish the assessment.
While some schools and hospitals remained closed on the Kohala Coast last night, none of the structures have been deemed unsafe, officials said.
The Kawaihae pier, the main one for the Kona side of the Big Island, did sustain structural damage, estimated at $5 million, and will be closed until further notice.
According to Janet Snyder, an aide to Hawaii Mayor Harry Kim, the neighborhoods hardest hit were along the Kohala Coast, from Waimea to Hawi. Kailua-Kona also sustained some heavy damage.
So far, three houses have been found completely destroyed, she said, and 82 people were evacuated and went to local shelters yesterday.
Meanwhile, eight public schools remain closed today, affecting nearly 5,000 students, said Art Souza, Department of Education West Hawaii District superintendent.
He said that despite the closure, no structural damage has been found in any of their buildings.
While "there are a number of different scenarios" keeping the schools closed, Souza said that in all the schools, fixtures, lighting, bookcases, computers and ceiling tiles were damaged and destroyed in the quakes. And, in some schools, propane lines had to be fixed.
"We're being as cautious and conscientious as possible," Souza said.
Souza said all the roof structures appeared to be sound. He said structural engineers from Oahu were to arrive today to do a "deep-level" check of the hardest-hit schools, including Honokaa and Kohala Elementary, Middle and High schools, and Kealakehe Elementary.
Waimea Elementary; charter school Waimea Middle School; Waikoloa Elementary; Kohala Elementary, Middle and High schools; Honokaa Elementary and High schools; and Kealakehe Elementary remain closed today, Souza said.
Snyder said primary estimates were that schools suffered $31 million in damage.
Elsewhere, Snyder said, officials were inundated with calls about property damage after Mayor Kim asked property owners to call in to Civil Defense with damage reports.
At one point in the early afternoon, the phone line was busy for three hours, and officials have not been able to assess all the properties asking for help.
Preliminary estimates are that roads, especially Highway 19, suffered $800,000 in damage. The Kawaihae Bridge connecting Hawi and Kapaau suffered $750,000 in damage. The two remain closed, with no estimate on whether they will open.
Plantation roads are being used to get traffic into those areas, Snyder said.
AGUSTIN TABARES / ASSOCIATED PRESS
Traffic crawled along one line of Kahala Mountain Road near Waimea yesterday after the earthquakes damaged the road.
Also, sewer and water systems were hard hit, with an early estimate of $2 million in damage.
Snyder said it is possible that hundreds of homes and businesses suffered damage, but only "low figures" are available.
Hotels remained largely OK, said George Applegate at the Big Island visitors bureau. Fewer than 100 guests had to be relocated from local hotels.
"For an island this size, it's remarkable," he said. "Nobody's closed at all."
The Kohala Coast resorts remained open yesterday, but damage assessments were still coming in.
"There are some cracks here and there," Applegate said, but the majority of the damage was to contents of rooms and common areas.