Mayor Surveys Tsunami Damage to Maui County Via Helicopter

Alan Arakawa courtesy
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Alan Arakawa courtesy

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa stepped off of a helicopter just as Hawaii Reporter reached him Friday morning. He and his staff had just surveyed the damage to the three islands making up Maui County, including the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai. “There were signs in many areas throughout the county that we were hit by a fairly substantial tsunami,” Arakawa reports.


About 150,000 people live there and an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 tourists visit at any given time. The majority of damage from the air appeared to be on Maui, specifically in the populated areas of Kihei, Kahului and Wailuku. Arakawa says homes in one area looked like they’d been hit by the tsunami and there was extensive debris all along the coast.

The Kahului Harbor had the largest and frequent surges reported statewide, anywhere from 6 to 12 feet, depending on the official report source. Despite the powerful waves, Arakawa says there was not extensive damage in the harbor. There were small boats that had capsized in Kahului, Lahaina and Ma’alaea Harbor on Maui and Molokai’s harbor, and the county will have to salvages those, he said.

Molokai property had minimal damage and Lanai appeared to have no damage, he says.

Water, sewer and power were shut down on Thursday evening in Kahului, Maui, and were restored without incident Friday morning.

The roads are all nearly open and the clean up began as soon as the “all clear” was given by the state and Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, he says.

The mayor thanked the public employees, who stepped up to take a leadership role in helping to keep people safe.

Police and county employees, in partnership with 40 agencies, worked all night to open shelters, evacuate residents and visitors, get people the supplies they needed and keep an eye on the tsunami’s impact.

“We had personnel stationed throughout the island, public workers and police, as our first responders in the field,” Arakawa says. “The system worked.”

He also thanked the public for remaining calm and listening to emergency instructions so there were no problems and the state for solid and frequent communication throughout the more than 12 hour ordeal.