Evacuated residents return to severe flooding damage in Hawaii

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OAHU, Hawaii (NewsNation Now) — A state of emergency is in effect in Hawaii after heavy rains brought floods, landslides and fear of dam failures, and authorities ordered the evacuation of several thousand people from communities threatened by rising waters.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige declared an emergency after a dam overflowed on the island of Maui, forcing evacuations and destroying homes. The dam’s “unsatisfactory” condition had led to it being scheduled for removal this year, the land department has said.

“The emergency proclamation makes state general funds available that can be used quickly and efficiently to help those impacted by the severe weather,” Ige said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Ige surveyed areas “severely damaged” on the North Shore.

Poor weather was expected to run until Friday, he added, and flood advisories stayed in place for a second day.

The emergency declaration covers the counties of Hawai’i, Maui, Kalawao, O’ahu and Kaua’i, the governor’s office said in a statement, while the disaster relief period runs until May 8.

A house on Haleiwa Road is surrounded by floodwaters Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Haleiwa, Hawaii. Torrential rains have inundated parts of Hawaii for the past several days. (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

The Honolulu Department of Emergency Management had directed people to leave Haleiwa, a community of a few thousand people to the north of state capital Honolulu. But the evacuation order was lifted late Tuesday, with many residents seeing the damage to their homes and businesses for the first time, NewsNation affiliate KHON reported.

Hawaii News Now reported that two people were swept away in raging waters on Tuesday. One of them, a 27-year-old man, was rescued by authorities. A search for the other would resume on Wednesday, according to the report.

There were no other immediate reports of injuries or casualties.

On Oahu, heavy showers prompted landslides and several road closures, KHON rpeorted.

On Maui, rains damaged roads, leaving them impassable, with one bridge completely washed out and another displaced, the governor’s office said.

State emergency management officials had said the rains led to the cresting of the Kaupakalua dam in the northern region of Haiku, prompting authorities to open evacuation shelters and urge people not to return home.

Six homes were heavily damaged or destroyed, said Maui mayor Michael Victorino.

Meanwhile, on Hawaii Island, Mayor Mitch Roth said the severe weather caused only minimal damage.

“Some stuff with trees falling on roads, boulders falling on roads, but you know, we have great people working here in the County of Hawaii and they’ve luckily got things up and fixed pretty quickly,” Roth said.

A winter weather advisory was issued by the National Weather Service. Snow could be seen at the summit of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

“We just ask people to use their common sense and act appropriately,” said Mayor Roth.

Reuters and NewsNation affiliate KHON contributed to this report.

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