by: Diane Ako
KOHALA, BIG ISLAND (KHNL) - A Big Island hotel damaged during the October 15 earthquakes is now closing indefinitely for repairs. An engineer finds new structural damage at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
Employee Kathey Traleton points to a cracked elevator shaft and a damaged roof trellis. This showed up on hotel's Beach Front wing, right after the earthquakes. "We've had to close this end of the building since October 15."
More problems surfaced in the months since. An engineering report finds unexpected damage to the roof, calling it a "significant safety hazard." General Manager Charles Park says, "We found there to be damage and we don't know when the next earthquake will hit or hurricane. We didn't want to take chances."
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel will close today temporarily for repairs of structural damage, laying off 470 employees, who will be paid at least through the end of the year.
The announcement came late yesterday after an engineering report found unexpected damage to the lateral bracing system in sections of the roof of the Big Island hotel, the hotel's parent company said in a news release. The report called the damage a "significant safety hazard." Park said the hotel's closure is expected to last several months to complete the repairs.
Some of the employees will fill jobs at the company's nearby Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel to fill posts for the busy holiday season. The Mauna Kea Golf Course and clubhouse will remain open. So will the beach, and the weekly clam bake and luau.