Governor arrives in Puna as Iselle recovery continues

Gov. Neil Abercrombie arrived in Puna, one of the hardest-hit areas on the Big Island, to survey the damage caused by Iselle.

KHON2 met him in Nanawale Estates, where much of the community was devastated.

“What I saw was the result of all the work that’s been going on 24/7 by the National Guard, by the County workers, by the state workers, by the volunteers, people coming from Hilo and all over,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “You can’t make your application for further federal assistance until you’re able to do an accurate assessment and because of everything that the HELCO workers and everybody that I’ve mentioned including folks locally helping one another out, all the aloha that’s out there, we’ve been able to make, I think, a very accurate assessment so we can make the right kind of application.

“Obviously, (residents are) going to need help and assistance by way of loans and just the way the farmers are and we’ll be working that through the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We’ll be doing this through the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” he added. “I think I’m in a position now to be able to make a statement and an application with sufficient authority and at the right level so that we don’t exaggerate our situation and at the same time, recognize… some hundreds of people who are going to need assistance.”

Photo Gallery: Devastation in Puna

Meanwhile, state and county officials and volunteers are still working on relief and recovery efforts.

County crews took to clearing not just public roads but private thoroughfares in Puna Wednesday.

The storm also toppled several trees onto one home off Holiday Street in Nanawale Estates. KHON2 was told the family who lived there rode out the storm in a room at the back of the house and luckily everyone escaped without injury.

Big Island mayor Billy Kenoi says more help is also on the way. “We’ve got… disaster recovery centers set up opening tomorrow and Friday in Pahoa from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at Mountain View gym from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” he said.

As KHON2 drove through Nanawale Estates to survey the damage, our crew ran into a resident who rode out the storm with a friend.

“It was pretty terrible out here,” said resident Steve Stagg. “The eye of the storm, you can tell right though there, came right though the back, busted all this down and went right through here. And from that point on it started getting crazy. We saw huge logs getting thrown around.”

At the Nanawale Community Association, there are about 600 homes with, according to the last census, about 1,400 residents.

On Wednesday, its community center looked more like a distribution center.

“What we’re trying to do now is have the association be a daily place for people to be able to get ice, food, water,” said general manager Robert Berry.

The following information was provided by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency:

  • Hawaii County Public Works and National Guard teams have been conducting wellness checks and initial damage assessments since last Friday.
  • Hawaii County Building Inspectors are out Wednesday checking electrical systems.
  • Community Emergency Response Team members are going door-to-door to do welfare checks.
  • The Hawaii County Office on Aging, the Bay Clinic and Hui Malama Ola Na Oiwi teams will be going door-to-door to do welfare checks for the elderly and disabled starting Thursday.
  • American Red Cross damage assessment teams and caseworkers continue to canvass neighborhoods to determine what resources and assistance can be provided. American Red Cross teams will wear Red Cross vests and have ID.
  • A joint team consisting of Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel will be conducting damage assessments starting Friday.
  • Volunteer organizations — Team Rubicon, Pacific Baptists, and All Hands — will be conducting assessments to see how they can help in the recovery and rebuilding process. Starting tomorrow, volunteers who are coordinating with the county will display Hawaii Island United Way volunteer tags.
  • The University of Hawaii National Disaster Preparedness Training Center is going out Thursday to conduct assessments on building engineering.
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