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Monday, October 16, 2006
Earthquake Damages Big Island Heiau, Church and Hospital, Destroys Smokestack
By Andrew Walden @ 3:01 PM :: 6105 Views :: Hawaii County , Energy

By Andrew Walden

Editor's Note: The picture above shows people crossing a bridge 2 miles north of Kawaihae on the Akoni Pule Highway, where a crack passed through the surface of the earth. The highway was closed, blocking traffic from Kawaihae to Hawi. Photo by Andrew Walden.

Plates and glasses smashed to the floor, books came flying off the shelves and TVs slid off tables across Kohala, Kona and Hamakua districts of the Big Island Sunday morning as a 6.7 temblor shook the Big Island. Structural damage was rare, a retaining wall built below a private swimming pool in Kona Palisades developed a crack and shifted about 6 inches. Rocks fell onto Big Island highways, keeping county work crews busy and closing off access to and from Hawi and Kapaau for most of the day. A landslide below the Mamalahoa Hwy south of Pauuilo caused one lane to drop about 10 feet below grade cutting off traffic between Hilo and Honokaa at the 34 mile marker. It remained closed as of 8pm Sunday night.

Section of highway at 34 mile marker between Hilo and Honokaa. Photo by Andrew Walden.

Section of highway at 34 mile marker between Hilo and Honokaa. Photo by Andrew Walden.

Grocery store employees spent the morning cleaning up after much of the items on their shelves flew into the aisles. Many stores were open by noon but KTA in Keauhou, Safeway and Wal-Mart in Kailua-Kona and the Waikoloa Village Market remained closed by mid-afternoon. Many gas stations closed and there were some power outages with much of the power back on by noon. Paauilo got power restored at 8 p.m. Further south, in Hilo and Puna, residents reported some books and glasses falling to the floor and a few power outages.

A crack in the surface of the Earth appeared across the Akoni Pule Highway 2 miles north of Kawaihae. The highway was closed due to fears for the integrity of an adjoining bridge. This, along with the closure of the Kohala Mountain Road due to rockslides, cut off Hawi and Kapaau until sunset when the Mountain road was cleared and opened.

A crack passed through the surface of the earth on a bridge 2 miles north of Kawaihae on Akoni Pule Highway. Photo by Andrew Walden.

This shows the size of the crack that passed through the surface of the earth on a bridge 2 miles north of Kawaihae on Akoni Pule Highway. Photo by Andrew Walden.

Puukohola Heiau built by King Kamehameha I in 1790-91 south of Kawaihae suffered a collapse of a 50-foot section of its northern exterior wall and a 10-foot section of its southern interior wall and a 20-foot section of its eastern interior wall. Ben Saldua, Chief Ranger of the Monument, indicated the walls had been “stabilized” in the late 1970s and this was the first damage since stabilization. King Kamehameha built the massive heiau after conquering Maui, laboring alongside his subjects to move the smooth stones for the heiau in a 20-mile-long human chain. The heiau is the structure most closely associated with Kamehameha’s campaign to conquer all the islands forming the Hawaiian Kingdom. These photos show stones which tumbled down across a path at the base of the heiau.

Pookohola Heiau south of Kawaihae. Photo by Andrew Walden.

Pookohola Heiau south of Kawaihae. Photo by Andrew Walden.

In another picture the damaged portion of the heiau is in the sunlight while an undamaged portion, with its well-ordered stones, is in shadow.

Pookohola Heiau south of Kawaihae. Photo by Andrew Walden.

The historic Kohala Mill Smokestack built 100 years ago in Hawi collapsed. Here are before and after shots.

Picture of what the 100-year-old smokestack from the former Kohala Sugar Mill looked like before the Oct. 15, 2006, earthquake on the Big Island.

Picture of what the 100-year-old smokestack from the former Kohala Sugar Mill looked like after the Oct. 15, 2006, earthquake on the Big Island. Photo by Dennis Camblin.

Picture of what the 100-year-old smokestack from the former Kohala Sugar Mill looked like after the Oct. 15, 2006, earthquake on the Big Island. Photo by Dennis Camblin.

A wall collapsed at Kalahikiola Congregational Church in Kapaau and a crack circled much of the historic stone building.


But Honokaa Hospital, built in the 1980s appeared to suffer the most serious damage of any modern building on the entire island with the 7am temblor sending large slabs of inch-thick stucco raining down from the eaves of the Hospital. Similar slabs hung loose from the eaves hours later and others sagged at several points surrounding the hospital. Patients were evacuated next door to the University of Hawaii learning center located in the buildings of the Old Honokaa Hospital -- which survived without a scratch.

Damage at the Honokaa Hospital on the Big Island. Photo by Andrew Walden.

Damage at the Honokaa Hospital on the Big Island. Photo by Andrew Walden.

Damage at the Honokaa Hospital on the Big Island. Photo by Andrew Walden.

Hospitals are places to which the wounded should be evacuated, but on Sunday patients were evacuated from Kona Community Hospital, West Hawaii’s major emergency hospital. There were media reports of “major structural damage” but the hospital structure was considered safe enough that the emergency room never closed and at least one baby was delivered at Kona Hospital Sunday. The cafeteria never closed and at 2pm emergency workers were having a conference in a lobby and other emergency workers awaited their calls under a large concrete awning. A large yellow triage tent was set up in the parking lot with the hospital building looming over it. There was no evidence of cracks in the building structure. Damage appeared to consist of fallen ceiling tiles and furniture, books, TVs and medical supplies being tossed about in the interior by the force of the earthquake.

Triage tent set up at Kona Community Hospital. Photo by Andrew Walden.

Monday morning the patients remained evacuated and administration staff reported that they were “cleaning up” and one of the hospital’s three operating rooms was open and operating as normal to treat any incoming emergency patients. The hospital did not experience an influx of emergency patients as a result of the earthquake. Engineers had examined the building Sunday and were expected to return Monday.

According to Red Cross workers at South Kona’s Yano Hall, eight long term care patients in wheelchairs were loaded into a van and evacuated to Yano at 9 a.m. They were fed at 11 a.m. when a Red Cross worker returned to the hospital cafeteria -- which never closed -- to get them breakfast. They were shifted to the Sheraton Keauhou at 1 p.m. Critical care patients were reportedly evacuated to the Hilo Hospital. Patients were also evacuated from their rooms in the Kohala Hospital which reported similar ceiling falls into a dining area while cleanup occurred.

At Honokaa Hospital sheets of inch-thick concrete stucco some as long as 20 feet by 5 feet wide came crashing down from under the eaves of the hospital. Built in the 1980s, Honokaa Hospital’s eaves overhanging entries, the parking garage, the emergency room loading area, and the entire hospital structure were left sagging in several places and hanging in others. Fortunately nobody was struck by the falling slabs, which weighed hundreds of pounds.



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