Generators reported stolen in aftermath of Iselle

Generators reported stolen in aftermath of Iselle

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Reports of looting in neighborhoods that were devastated by Iselle are just the latest in a series of frustrations for residents throughout the Puna district.

Five days after the storm hit -- nearly 7,000 customers are still without power, about 500 don't have running water, and at least two dozen people are living in an emergency shelter.

Hawai'i County police confirm there have been at least two reported burglaries -- one involving a truck that was stuck under a fallen tree. There have been at least three thefts -- two vehicles left on the side of the road were stolen and a generator was taken from a home. Most of the incidents were reported in Pahoa, but folks in other neighborhoods aren't taking any chances.

"We started locking up our generator because that's what they're looking for, generators," said Vanda Kekahuna, who lives in Hawaiian Beaches.

HELCO officials confirm 6,800 people are without electricity across the Puna district, so it's no surprise generators have become hot commodities.

"They need their own power. Everybody's frustrated. They're all looking for an easy way out -- so they just go steal, that's what I'm thinking. That's why we let our dogs loose now," Kekahuna said.

Sandra Patascio, a Hawaiian Paradise Park resident, says the reports are disappointing.

"I can deal without electric for a little while 'cause everybody -- the community is helping each other -- but to hear there are people that are stealing. We don't need that here," Patascio said. "We work hard for our things then Mother Nature happens and there's people who is taking advantage of us people who are trying to survive for the next two weeks without electricity."

HELCO officials have tripled their workforce with crews coming in from West Hawai'i, O'ahu and Maui to maximize their efforts to restore power, but they're asking for continued patience and understanding.

"We are advising customers that if they are in some of these areas that have the most severe damage it could be up to three weeks possibly even more before they get their power back," said Hawai'i Electric Companies' spokesperson Darren Pai.

HELCO officials won't name specific neighborhoods, saying the situation isn't the same on every street in any given subdivision, but advises anyone with questions about their status to call or drop by their customer service center at Hawaiian Shore Community Center.

While neighborhoods wait, residents are keeping a watchful eye.

"Because of the devastation of the hurricane, we've had to limit access and we have volunteers from the community now that are pretty much manning the entrance way 24/7," explained Greg Braun, the current president of the vacation rental association in Kapoho.

Police are also patrolling neighborhoods, along with the national guard. At this time no arrests have been made. Puna residents say they hope whoever is responsible is caught soon -- especially because the majority of the district has shown unity and aloha for one another during this difficult time.

Copyright 2014 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.