16 Oct 2006

Hundreds evacuated from hotels on Hawaii's Big Island after quake

6:58 pm on 16 October 2006

Hundreds of hotel guests and hospital patients had to be evacuated after a strong earthquake hit Hawaii early today.

The governor Linda Lingle issued a disaster declaration for the state, saying there had been damage to buildings and roads.

There were no reports of fatalities, but the state Civil Defence says there have been some minor injuries.

The quake, which measured six point six hit 16 kilometres from Kailua Kona, on the west coast of Hawaii Island, which is also known as the Big Island.

It is estimated that as many as 3,000 people were evacuated from three hotels on the Big Island.

Brad Kurokawa, the Hawaii County deputy planning director, says those evacuated were being accommodated in a gymnasium.

The quake caused statewide power outages, and difficulties for phone users.

The outages were caused by power plants turning off automatically when built-in seismic monitors were triggered by the quake.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, computer simulation of the quake estimates that as many as 170 bridges on the Big Island could have suffered damage in the tremor.

FEMA's director of response for the region. Bob Fenton, says more than 50 federal officials were en route to the Big Island to assess damage and begin recovery work.