KILAUEA, Hawaii (AP) – An earthen dam burst on the Hawaiian island of Kauai on Tuesday, sweeping away at least two houses and washing out the only road along the island’s north shore. One person was killed and as many as seven others were reported missing.

The Kaloko Reservoir dam gave way without warning after days of heavy rain, cutting off access to thousands of rural houses and luxury condominiums.

Search crews recovered an unidentified body, Coast Guard spokesman Michael De Nyse said. Though a search plane and a helicopter had returned to base late Tuesday, the Coast Guard was still searching for victims in the floodwaters.

The Kaloko dam, about 40 feet high and 1,800 feet long, captured runoff from small streams. Authorities estimated that about 1,400 acre-feet of water poured out of the reservoir, which is enough water to cover 1,400 acres a foot deep, or more than 60 million cubic feet.

Debris from the wall of water could be seen clinging to electrical wires. The surge uprooted 200-foot trees, taking out garages, sheds and massive dirt embankments.

“Sounded like a 747 jet crashing here in the valley, all the trees popping and snapping and everything,” Kilauea resident John Hawthorne said. “It was just a horrendous sound, and it never quit.”

State officials were assessing the safety of other dams in the Kauai hills, which are dotted with private earthen dams such as the one that broke open.

Ed Teixeira, state vice director of civil defense, said in Honolulu that officials were worried about erosion caused by floodwaters.

“I would characterize this as a growing crisis on Kauai,” Teixeira said.

Parts of golf courses and shopping center parking lots were flooded, and major runoff into the normally blue ocean turned the waves muddy all around the popular resort island.

State Rep. Hermina Morita, whose district includes the area where the dam failed, said a constituent who had spent the night away from home returned and was searching for four family members.

There was no warning about the dam’s strength or the amount of water in the reservoir behind it, Morita said.

“I think everybody was taken by surprise,” she said.

Rod Haraga, state transportation director, said the force of the water washed out 100 yards of highway, stranding many motorists.

The small airport at Princeville remained open, but tourists with flights from the main airport in Lihue would be unable to get there until the road is repaired.

Tom Pickett, owner of a bakery and pizzeria in the community of Kilauea, said many of his employees could not get to work from the other side of the massive break in the highway.

“Apparently a pretty big piece of highway is gone. Everything washed out of that valley.” Pictures taken by residents showed a lot of trees, dirt and mud, he said.

Two schools were being used as emergency shelters.

Roy Matsuda, lead forecaster at the Honolulu office of the National Weather Service, said a storm dumped 5 to 6 inches of rain on Kauai in the last 24 hours.

“Kauai has been fully saturated,” he said. He said the storm had left Kauai but was heading east toward the island of Oahu.

The weather service issued a flood warning for the entire state, cautioning residents of the threat of flooding.

Kauai is the westernmost of Hawaii’s main islands.


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