North Kauai Residents Sense Isolation : Disaster: Islanders say hurricane relief is not reaching their area from the southern seat of government. Officials say they are doing their best under immense stress.


Nick Beck, who has survived three hurricanes and several tidal waves, was gazing off at the rubble that once was his house until Hurricane Iniki ravaged his community.

"I know I'll build it back. There'll be hardships, but it will be pulled back together," the school principal said. "Everybody is just praising the Lord that we're all alive."

There is indeed thanks and a sense of gratitude in this close-knit town along Kauai's North Shore. But as the days have passed since Iniki's rampage, there is also a building frustration and sense of isolation by many who live along a coastline that provided the breath-taking scenery for a number of movies.

Today in Hanalei, like other parts of Kauai, there is no electricity and limited telephone service, and long lines must be endured to get food and gasoline. Tempers are fraying and police have tightened security and blocked off neighborhoods from non-residents amid reports that homeowners are arming themselves to protect their homes from looters.

"People are scared," said one homeowner who asked not to be identified. "They have lost so much and they don't want to lose anything else."

The despair over the destruction and the fear of looters are mixed with a growing sense of anger at what some believe is a slow response from officials in the county seat of Lihue to assist the North Shore communities, which stretch from Kilauea to Haena.

"We didn't have any government help, and we didn't wait for any," George Anderson of Hanalei said of those first few days after the hurricane hit.

"It was the local people who cleared all these highways, pushing off trees and clearing the road. It was the community, not the government," said Anderson, the local disaster relief coordinator.

Down the highway in Princeville, others said that they felt abandoned by officials and forgotten by relief efforts.

"It's just not filtering to the north," said Dolly Wijas, the owner of a travel business and home, both damaged by the storm.

"I don't understand why the government can't work faster," said Susan Holmes, who also owns a home in the area.

At the Princeville Hotel, which became a shelter for homeless residents as well as tourists--there also was a sense of isolation, not only during the hurricane but afterward.

"We were on our own up here in terms of county help. We're still on our own," said Richard Delane, a resident manager of the luxury hotel, which included a staff member whose father died during the hurricane.

County officials in Lihue said that they understand the frustrations of North Shore residents and business owners. Some of the worst damage on the island was inflicted in Princeville, where 80% of the seaside condominiums were destroyed and the hotel suffered $25 million in damages.

Wallace Stickney, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, defended Mayor JoAnn Yukimura for doing a "heroic job" and said that relief efforts are moving as quickly as possible.

"You have to understand everyone is under tremendous stress," he said in an interview.

Along the North Shore, residents--as well as visitors still on the island--say that their stress is multiplying as their needs become more critical.

In Haena, Richard and Janet Navarro of Santa Ana were visiting her sister when the hurricane hit. With the loss of electricity they now find themselves forced to use a car battery to power a medical device that their brain-damaged daughter must use every 20 minutes if she is to swallow.

"We are just getting by that way," said Janet Navarro, who had arrived the day before the storm to celebrate her daughter's second birthday.

Lucinda Michetti, who owns a home in Haena, said that residents are desperate for batteries, candles, ice and water--particularly for infants and the elderly.

"I feel like we've been forgotten," she said.

According to Kauai Electric officials, power should be restored in 30 days but those who live on the North Shore and other extensively damaged areas may have to wait an additional month.

For some residents, the wait will be a long one and the gravity of their situation has only begun to hit them. LaFrance Kapaka of Hanalei said that like others she sympathizes with the tourists who were stranded, but after catering to the island's visitors it is time for the residents to care for each other.

"We're ill. We need time for healing," she said. "We only have time for each other right now. Then we'll open our arms again."


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