Class-action lawsuit alleges city negligence worsened East Honolulu flooding

Updated: Oct. 17, 2018 at 5:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of East Honolulu residents are taking the city to court, saying its negligence contributed to historic flooding in April that did millions of dollars in damages to Oahu homes.

Niu Valley resident Hakim Ouansafi says his home suffered nearly $700,000 in damages — and that flood insurance only covered $250,000 of that. He alleges that city failed to properly maintain nearby streams, which exacerbated the flooding.

“You get a little upset when you hear the identical flooding happened 20 years ago, 30 years ago ... causing the same damages,” said Ouansafi. “It’s unfair. You pay your taxes, you expect a reasonable maintenance."

More than 400 homes were damaged during the April flooding, and the Ouansafi family was among the hardest hit, the lawsuit says.

“It reminded you of places like India and other places that you see completely devastated. The level of water in our house was between 12 inches and 28 inches," he said.

According to the lawsuit, the city conducted only 20 days of maintenance on the Niu Valley Stream, which is closest to Ouansafi’s home, in all of 2017. At the nearby Kuliouou Stream, the city conducted 10 days of maintenance work last year, the suit says.

“We strongly believe that there was negligence, and there were a lot of things that should have been done and could have been done much better," said Lyle Hosoda, Ouansafi’s lawyer.

He says about a dozen families are joining the lawsuit.

The city declined comment on the lawsuit, but in the past the mayor has said the city is not solely responsible for stream maintenance.

“Both the city and state have responsibility to clear streams where our city roads go. We don’t clear streams from the edge of a cliff mauka all the way down to the sea, we clear streams where our roads are,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said on April 24.

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