Magnitude 6.5 earthquake strikes Hawaii, waking up islanders and knocking out power

Sunday, October 15th 2006, 4:38 pm
By: News On 6

HONOLULU (AP) _ A strong earthquake shook Hawaii early Sunday, causing a landslide that blocked a major highway on Hawaii Island and knocking out power across the state, authorities said.

The state Civil Defense had unconfirmed reports of injuries, but communication problems prevented more definite reports. People were also trapped in elevators in Oahu, authorities said.

Gov. Linda Lingle said in a radio interview with KSSK from Hawaii Island that she had no report of any fatalities. She said boulders fell on highways, rock walls collapsed and television had been knocked off stands.

``We were rocking and rolling,'' said Anne LaVasseur, who was on the second floor of a two-story, wood-framed house on the east side of the Big Island when the temblor struck. ``I was pretty scared. We were swaying back and forth, like King Kong's pushing your house back and forth.''

The quake hit at 7:07 a.m. local time, 10 miles north-northwest of Kailua Kona, a town on the west coast of the Big Island, said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center, part of the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Center reported a preliminary magnitude of 6.5, while the U.S. Geological Survey gave a preliminary magnitude of 6.3. It was followed by several strong aftershocks, including one measuring a magnitude of 5.8, the Geological Survey said.

Blakeman said there was no risk of a Pacific-wide tsunami, but a possibility of significant wave activity in Hawaii.

On Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island, there was some damage in Kailua-Kona and landslide along a major highway, said Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Center.

Officials were concerned there may be ``structural integrity'' problems at the big hospital in Kona in the Big Island, Lingle said. Rod Haraga, director of the state Transportation Department, told KSSK the hospital was being evacuated.

Betsy Garties, who lives in North Kohala, on the northern tip of Hawaii Island said she was lying in bed with one of her two young children when the quake struck.

``First I heard a rumbling. Then the house started to shake. Then broken glass,'' Garties said. She first stood under a door frame as safety experts advise, then found that too wobbly for comfort and ran into the yard.

``It was strong enough that it was wobbling, so you almost lost your balance running out into the yard,'' Garties said. ``The house was visibly rocking.''

Peggy Cardoza, an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant in Hilo, said she was at work when the earthquake struck.

``We just felt the ground shaking,'' Cardoza said. ``We just stood here and watched everything shake.''

Power at least partially knocked out on every island, said Civil Defense spokesman Lani Goldman. On Oahu, 95 percent of customers were without power, he said.

Airports were functioning despite the power outages.

``Planes are able to fly in and out,'' said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA in Los Angeles. ``Our air traffic facilities at the airport appear to be unaffected, but the airport itself doesn't have power. There's no power for the screening machines.''

Authorities said some of the power outages may have been due to heavy rainfall.