Residents thankful rock fall spared their lives

KALIHI VALLEY (HawaiiNewsNow) - The biggest boulder that crashed down on Kula Kolea Place weighed a whopping ten tons. It tore the side out of one home before crashing onto the road, where it left a dent.

Two houses sustained what the Red Cross classified as major damage.

"What comes to my mind? I'm just happy we're alive," resident Deborah Vicari said.

One of the smaller boulders was wedged against a house across the street.

It looks like a bomb exploded in John Maemori's residence.

"I was five feet away from where it happened," he said. "My other roommate was three feet away and he was covered in debris. We actually pulled him out."

The City Department of Emergency Management met with residents of Kula Kolea Friday morning.

"They have been told that they should not go back there due to the hazards of the possible recurrence of rocks falling down again," deputy director Peter Hirai said.

University of Hawaii geology Prof. Steve Martel said a combination of steep slopes, fractured lava rock, hillside vegetation, and rainfall all contribute to rock fall potential. The height of the hillside behind the homes is about 300 feet.

"If the slope is tall, the rock's going to accelerate all the way down the slope and pick up a lot of speed. That makes them a lot more damaging when they get to the bottom and hit things," he said.

The property above the valley belongs to the state and to a small church.

Late Friday the state Department of Land and Natural Resources determined the rocks originated from property owned by the Church of Christ Redeemed Lord.

Hirai said state surveyors will also examine the hillside to see if other rocks could come down.

"If they find those then they're going to have to work with an engineering team to determine what's the best option, whether it's removal or breaking it up in place," he said.

The city removed the boulders that landed on the street. Property owners have to take care of rocks on their properties.

"Does the engineer come in this weekend? We'll find out maybe Monday, maybe tomorrow. Nobody knows," Vicari said.

"I'm going to start patching before the rains come," Maemori said. "I'm going to get some plywood and plastic and cover it up before it gets worse."

He said it's a miracle no one was killed or badly injured.

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