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Families reel with Waimea landslide blocking a portion of Menehune Road

WAIMEA — Frustration over the lack of activity grew among residents affected by the closure of a portion of Menehune Road near the swinging bridge over the Waimea River Wednesday.

Chef Carla Dusenberry was among the group of residents collected on the levy of the Waimea River, watching vehicles take their turn at the ford.

“My dad is in there,” Dusenberry said. “He’s dying, and they won’t even let the hospice people through.”

A group of her family members braved the rockpile covering Menehune Road and crossed the closed-off area to visit the Dusenberry house that Carla said is at least 100 years old.

“A lot of the families, like the Dusenberrys, the Taniguchis and the Cassels, are long-time residents of the valley,” Dusenberry said. “They’ve lived up there for a long time. They’re elderly, and they need to have access.”

Menehune Road remains closed to vehicular traffic after a huge landslide reported around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. In addition to blocking the road, the slide damaged to the swinging bridge and the utility supply lines on the bridge.

“This is bigger than just rocks on the road,” said Troy Kaneshiro, who came to visit the site with his cousin. “I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw it in person.”

The American Red Cross established an emergency shelter at the Waimea Neighborhood Center Tuesday afternoon to accommodate some of the impacted residents. That shelter was closed Wednesday morning.

“It was a good thing the landslide happened early in the morning,” one of the residents in the group said. “Some of the people had already left for work. They were the lucky ones because they got their cars out. The others were still at home getting ready to work.”

Utility providers have established temporary electricity and water service in the area, and are working to restore internet access and telecommunications service to residents.

Mayor Derek Kawakami signed an emergency proclamation Tuesday afternoon for the purpose of providing continued relief for disaster damages, losses and suffering, and to protect the health, safety and welfare of Kaua‘i residents and visitors.

“We are assessing the slope and ensuring safe working conditions for emergency-work personnel,” Kawakami said in a Wednesday release. “Once deemed safe by engineers, our roads division crews will resume clearing the rocks and debris from the road. Mahalo to all our partners and to the residents for your continued cooperation and patience.”

Darryl Kaneshiro, offering a tour of the landslide from where Wa‘alani Enterprises heavy equipment was clearing access for the utility trucks, said there are about 60 people and approximately 20 homes impacted by the closure caused by the landslide.

“Wa‘alani, who does contract work for KIUC, is getting the area so the trucks can come in with the poles,” Daryl Kaneshiro said. “But this is managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and we need approval to be able to do this work. This is not an access road. This is just so we can get the utilities (that includes water) into the valley again.”

A Wednesday-afternoon statement by the county said the crews are still assessing damage, including making contact with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources State Historic Preservation Division regarding the swinging bridge.

Affected residents are urged to avoid the area due to ongoing dangerous conditions.

Anyone requiring assistance during work hours may call the Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency at 808-241-1800. If after working hours, call Kaua‘i Police Dispatch at 808-241-1711. If this is an emergency requiring immediate assistance, call 911.

There is no timeline on when Menehune Road will be reopened.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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