Relieved residents return home to Kula Kolea Place

 UPDATED 4:03 PM HST Apr 28, 2012
Kalihi Valley boulder
HONOLULU -

Holding steady hundreds of feet above vulnerable homes on Kula Kolea Place, a helicopter pilot positioned the aircraft directly over a crew trained in removing large boulders.

The team of privately hired engineers and contractors secured the bigger boulders first, with anchors and straps, while bagging some of the smaller rocks.

Against stiff winds, the chopper lifted the harnessed boulders slowly. The large rock swayed from a tethered line, before it disappeared out of sight.

"The contractor is extremely knowledgeable they have good equipment, equipment was dropped on the mountain Saturday morning, and they've done this many times," said Ardalan Nikou, department manager for Aecom, an engineering service company.

On the night of April 12th, three large boulders broke free from the hillside on Kula Kolea Place in Kalihi Valley.

The boulders crashed through three homes, nearly missing Dan Furuya by inches.

The state discovered more boulders posing a serious safety risk.

"It's very steep terrain, two of the boulders are more than a ton, and one is closer to over 2 tons," said William Aila, Jr., Department of Land and Natural Resource chairperson.

"We were concerned about the next big flood and heavy rain that would have definitely would encouraged, encouraged them to slide down again," added Nikou.

State geologists confirmed the rocks came from private property owned by Church of Christ Redeemed Lord.

However, after a representative said the church couldn't afford the removal, the state proceeded with emergency rock fall mitigation.

"Anytime we do something like this it is on the case by case basis and of course public health and safety is the most important criteria," said Aila.

The state land chair William Aila said nearly everyone asked to evacuate did so voluntarily.

By 1:30 in the afternoon, Aila gave the all clear to the relief of residents.

In total, the crew removed two large boulders and several smaller rocks from the hillside.

The state is still totaling up the cost but says the budget was $150,000.

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