Monday, March 20, 2006


Must Hawaii repeat Louisiana's mistakes?

We knew about the dam problem (see Advertiser,Oct 23, 2005: 22 structures in dire need of repairs) but repairs were not made and lives were lost. The search for more victims continues and at least four more bodies may be discovered. How is this different from the similar situation in New Orleans? They also knew that the levees would be breached or topped in a storm. Repairs were not made.

These dams were in primarily rural areas so loss of life will be limited. When the next big storm or tsunami hits the state, how will we fare?

We counted on our state government to see to it that the dams were kept in good repair, and in very plain language, they failed us.

On September 12 and 13, 2005, the Legislature held hours-long hearings that raised additional issues related to evacuation of special needs populations, the lack of availability of shelters, shortcomings in our medical readiness, communication issues between concerned agencies, sirens that don't work, the dams, and much, much more. It's six months later now, and we the people need to know what the concerns were and what is or is not being done.

Or else we will needlessly repeat the tragedy of the Gulf Coast states.

Short of the governor convening a special group to work on this, the only venue is our press. The Advertiser article in October was an excellent beginning. But now people have been killed. I hope the two largest newspapers will dig deeply and find out where we stand. They should go beyond interviewing high officials who say everything is ok or that they have plans to fix things.

If there are plans, publish them please. What date will work be complete--for example, when will sirens be made to work, when will shelters be ready to occupy? When will nursing homes be informed of evacuation plans and agree to them? Who will transport those who need dialysis to the machines if a storm knocks out transportation?

And speaking of transportation... try evacuating yourself home from work if there is a collision on the H-1. Imagine that everyone is trying to leave town before a storm.

We need answers, detailed answers, not assurances. Do I lack faith in our government to take care of us on their own? Yes. Watch the surplus be spent on other purposes. Watch them hide from responsibility for the deaths that already resulted from understaffing and inattention. Yes, bucks were saved, and now lives were lost. J'accuse.

If Hawaii is not to repeat Louisiana's mistakes, it will be thanks to the persistence of a vigilant and dogged corps of newspaper reporters. I hope they will step forward and accept their mission.


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