Possible Blasts in Pearl City as Crews Remove Gas-Filled Tanks

Roy Ichinose
Roy Ichinose
Janice Okubo
Janice Okubo

PEARL CITY (KHNL) -- Get ready for possible explosions in Pearl City Monday. It's part of the state's effort to remove gas-filled cylinders that were damaged during a fire at Waiau Center last week.

The Department of Health says it must first release the carbon monoxide that's in the containers before crews can safely remove them. Because the gas could ignite, businesses at the center are once again forced to close down.

Five days after a devastating fire, a mound of debris still sits, and beloved stores, like Pat's Island Delights, remain boarded up.

"Pat's always a stop for us when we buy omiyage to go outer island or on the mainland," Roy Ichinose, Pearl City resident, said. "And we're really surprised and sad to see that they had to close up."

Flames devoured the Ewa end of the strip mall in Waiau Tuesday. The fire destroyed at least three businesses and caused smoke damage to others.

Jean Santiago managed to re-open her salon this weekend.

"We were fortunate in that the weekend clients, we were able to keep Saturday and Sunday," she said. "But during the week, we lost a lot of business from the walk-ins."

Now comes word the businesses will have to shut down again. The health department plans to spend the next two days removing 11 carbon monoxide-filled cylinders that didn't explode during the fire.

"Those cylinders need to be vented before they are removed," Janice Okubo, state Department of Health, said. "So the gas has to be removed from the cylinders. That's going to involve piercing the cylinders from a distance."

Explosions are possible.

"There are barricades that are set up to make sure, if some of the cylinders do ignite during the piercing process, that it is a controlled explosion that occurs," Okubo said.

Store owners and customers can't wait for things to return to normal.

"It's one place that, one place less that we can go to," Ichinose said. "But, man, it's a lot of damage. And I'm sure it's going to cost big money just to fix it all up."

Health officials say it may take three hours to free the gas from one tank. The work is scheduled to take place Monday between 6:00 am and 3:30 pm, and Tuesday from 6:00 am to 1:00 pm.