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Hawaii Shakes Off Quake

The state is `open for business' after its strongest temblor in 20 years, the governor says. Most damage appears limited to the Big Island.

October 17, 2006|Sam Howe Verhovek | Times Staff Writer

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Hawaiians took the strongest earthquake in more than 20 years here in stride Monday, working quickly to restore electricity and clear roadways after Sunday's 6.7-magnitude quake, which caused blackouts and landslides but apparently no deaths or major injuries.

"All in all, it seems we were incredibly lucky," said Lynda Palmer, a grocery store clerk here in Kailua-Kona, about 10 miles southeast of the quake's epicenter, on the northwest coast of the Big Island.

"It's a miracle no one got killed," said Palmer who, like many here, described being awakened by a severe and prolonged rattling early Sunday. "There are some huge boulders on the roads out there."

Said Gov. Linda Lingle: "While this was traumatic for many residents, we are blessed because the situation could have been much worse."

The governor added that the state was "open for business" and said there was no need for tourists scheduled to come here to change their plans.

The earthquake and its aftershocks, she said, "did not generate a tsunami in Hawaii, or anywhere in the Pacific."

Some people here said they quickly went to the ocean after the rattling stopped -- in disregard of safety but curious as to whether the quake would generate larger-than-normal waves.

"There wasn't really much to see," said Danny Ignacio, a maintenance worker. "I think we had about an 8-inch tsunami."

Lingle and other top officials said most operations had returned to normal by Monday afternoon.

"There is some damage on the Big Island," said Ray Lovell, a spokesman for the state's office of civil defense. "As far as the rest of the state, and actually most of the Big Island -- if you are in the Hilo area, you couldn't really see any damage -- things are pretty much normal."

But some homeowners here did report moderate to serious damage, including cracked walls and mirrors.

Officials also cautioned that they needed to inspect bridges, roads, schools, ports, resorts and other facilities to see whether damage might be more extensive than the relatively minor problems found so far.

And, they said, it was too early to reliably estimate the monetary loss.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it was sending an emergency-response team here to help. A plane carrying about 75 people left Oakland late Monday afternoon. The team was staying near Honolulu on Monday night, and was expected to arrive here today.

The quake hit at 7:07 a.m. Sunday and could be felt as far away as Oahu, the state's most populous island. A second quake, measured at 5.8 magnitude, struck about seven minutes later, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were several strong aftershocks, the agency said in a statement.

Hawaii's Big Island is the youngest and largest of the eight major Hawaiian Islands -- about 4,028 square miles and still growing as lava pours out of Kilauea volcano.

Several resort officials here said they were back to normal Monday after power outages that lasted from a few hours to as long as about 18 hours.

Promoters of the Ironman World Championship, a triathlon that is one of the major annual sporting events in Kailua-Kona, said they planned to go ahead with Saturday's event.

Kevin Mackinnon, in a posting for the Ironman website, wrote that it appeared that "things will get back to normal fairly soon."

"Within minutes after the quake yesterday," he wrote, "athletes were seen running and biking. (The guy who yelled "Tsunami" during a fun run here yesterday helped speed up a lot of runners as they scrambled for high ground.)"

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sam.verhovek@latimes.com

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