FLOODING and mudslides in Hawaii have triggered a state of emergency with hundreds of stranded tourists having to be airlifted to safety.
Two feet of rain fell in just 24 hours on Saturday on the island of Kauai in what was described as the “worst storm in recent memory”.
Hawaii Governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation for the island where heavy rainfall damaged or flooded dozens of homes in the communities of Hanalei, Wainiha, Haena and Anahola.
By this morning, emergency crews had evacuated 152 people by helicopter, 121 by bus and others by water after the River Anahola broke its banks.
Forty people, mostly tourists, had been stuck at a Red Cross shelter in a primary school in the north shore town of Hanalei since Saturday, but were unable to be evacuated.
Coralie Matayoshi, CEO of American Red Cross of Hawaii said plans to airlift them out of the school, which was surrounded by water, were initially abandoned because severe weather grounded helicopters.
On Sunday night, another 21 people made their way to the shelter on personal watercraft and boats.
The shelter earlier had run out of food and water, but had received provisions on Sunday.
The Red Cross said that by this afternoon, flood waters had receded enough for the remaining group to be taken by bus to another shelter.
Around 30 campers were stranded in the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park on Monday, as state parks officials coordinated with county and state emergency workers to prioritise rescue missions.
Sarah Blane, Kauai County spokeswoman, described it as the “worst storm in recent memory”, with some residents claiming it was worse than Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
Ms Blane said rescuers had airlifted 212 people from Wainiha and Haena after they were cut off from the rest of the island by landslides on Kuhio Highway past Hanalei Bay.
She said most of those rescued were visitors and had no running water or electricity since the weekend.
A further 121 people were shuttled from the Hanalei Elementary School to Princeville today after crews finished repairs to Hanalei Bridge.
Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. assessed the damage by helicopter, saying: “While we have a long road to recovery ahead of us, we are incredibly grateful for everyone who has stepped to the plate to help in one way or another.”
There were no reports of major injuries.
At least two houses on the north shore completely washed off their foundations, and Red Cross volunteers said at least four homes were destroyed in the flooding.
The rain gauge broke but meteorologist Chevy Chevalier said it was “highly likely” that the record of 28.54 inches of rainfall had been broken.
The National Weather Service recorded 71.3cm of rainfall in Hanalei.
The record for a 24-hour period in Hanalei was set in 2012 at 72.49cm.
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