The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 35.0°F | Overcast

Kauai Tourists Flee from Iniki as Island's Supplies Dwindle

By Susan Essoyan
and Victor Merina

Los Angeles Times


Tourists fled the once-plush hotels of this resort town in chartered boats and helicopters Sunday, as food and water supplies dwindled on the hurricane-devastated island of Kauai.

Because the island remained without electricity or running water two days after Hurricane Iniki hit, those left behind used buckets of water from swimming pools and the ocean to flush their toilets.

In the city of Lihue northeast of here, travelers trudged to the airport carrying their bags, hoping to get aboard one of the few flights leaving the island, which depends on tourism for 80 percent of its economy.

"We had a couple of real nice days and then all hell broke loose," said Dave Friedlander of Rochester, N.Y., whose honeymoon at the Weston Kauai Hotel was cut short by the storm. "The Weston was beautiful, the nicest place I ever saw. Now it's wrecked."

The line of stranded travelers stretched four deep the length of the terminal building and tempers were fraying. One woman, clutching her tow-headed toddler, burst into tears when a police officer refused to let her reclaim her place in line. "I just went to get my kid," she sobbed. "It's not fair."

Although tourists were inconvenienced, it was the residents of the island who felt the impact of the hurricane most deeply.

"I feel bad for the islanders," Friedlander said. "We have some place to go home to. We're going to forget about our discomfort as soon as we get in the shower. They're going to have to live with this."

The small wooden homes of sugar cane workers inland from Poipu proved to be no match for the storm. The hurricane's winds flattened some of them and tossed others around.

On Sunday afternoon, one woman bathed in a stream running through the McBryde Sugar Co. property. Sugar cane that once stood eight feet high had been shredded by the storm's winds. The sugar industry, which once dominated this island, is now it's second largest employer behind the tourist industry.

At the Westin Kauai Lagoons, an elegant hotel on the southeastern side of Kauai, officials said that the complex had suffered $20 million to $30 million in damages. Hundreds of guests were milling about the grounds Sunday morning, making do with the hotel's limited and dwindling food supplies.

Hotel spokesman Ray Brum said that about 1,200 guests had been staying in the hotel when the storm hit. they were herded into a ballroom a few hours before Iniki struck. But when the ballroom roof began to leak, they were moved underground to the hotel's basement.

"There were no injuries, thank God," Brum said. "There was no panicking and people came through fine."

Brum said that he was concerned, however, because the hotel has few medical supplies and is fast running out of food and water.

"We need to get these people off this island," he said. "We need water. We need food. But what we really need is to get these people out."

National guardsmen cordoned off the Poipu Village Shopping Center, where uprooted trees and roofing material lay strewn amid broken glass. An ice-cream store owner was desperately trying to keep his goods cold with a portable generator.

Gary and Darlene Joseph were there to check on their store, Overboard Swimwear. They were relieved to see that it was largely intact but were not so sure about their own future.

"We survived the storm, but I don't know if we'll be able to survive the aftermath," Gary Joseph said.

"We're more apprehensive about what's going to happen now with all the hotels stopping," his wife said. "If you're a food store it's one thing, if you're a clothing store ... how do you pay the rent?"