Residents evacuated say they are lucky to be alive

Kalihi Valley homes damaged by falling boulders

 UPDATED 1:27 PM HST Apr 13, 2012
HONOLULU -

Three homes were damaged on Kula Kolea Place by boulders that slid off the hillside just after 9 p.m. Thursday.

Firefighters evacuated residents from the street, and many were forced to stay at
Red Cross shelters.

Twelve hours after the rocks came down, residents were still shaking from their brush with death.

"The house shook, the electricity flickered. You could hear 'booms' and it was all the rocks coming down, then just pure black smoke," said Deborah Vicari, one of the residents evacuated.

Residents say at first they thought it was an earthquake.

"I had earphones (on) and I could feel the shaking. I took one side off my ear and (the boulder) hit and I looked around the corner and my whole kitchen was gone," said John Maemori, whose home was destroyed by a falling boulder.

Dan Furuya missed being crushed by just inches by the boulder that slammed through his bedroom.

"I bent over to turn on the light next to my bed and I heard this loud bang and the roof came down," said Furuya.   He credits the refrigerator next to his bed for saving his life, stopping the boulder from landing on him.

Two homes have major structural damage and one has minor damage from at least three large boulders that came down off the hillside.

The largest of the boulders was about 5 feet around.  Two other boulders, approximately 2 and 3 feet around,  lodged in homes.

Six homes on Kula Kolea Place were evacuated because officials weren't sure if there were other loose rocks.  Some residents stayed with relatives, while the rest were being helped at a Red Cross Shelter at Kalihi District Park.

"If they choose to go back home, it's at their own risk and we did advise them of that," said Peter Hirai, deputy director for the Department of Emergency Management.

No one was hurt in the rock fall, but the trauma of the ordeal was enough to bring Vicari to tears.

"I just look at it that we're all safe, that's the blessing. It brought the community even closer," said Vicari.

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