KOLOA — Three meetings scheduled this week are aimed to respond to questions about disaster recovery, health concerns, relief loans and assistance. The first on Monday drew more than 100 people to the Koloa Neighborhood Center.
One resident impacted by the Koloa flood, Karen Shigematsu-Ton, came to thank all the people who helped, including volunteers and families who cleaned floors and removed damaged belongings.
“I just want to know why the stream wasn’t cleared,” Shigematsu-Ton said. “Every year when there’s big rain, I call Grove Farms and have never seen them come and clean the ditch.”
Although the drainage situation is still being assessed, county, state, federal and community partners presented updates on emergency relief efforts.
“The meeting is to inform the public what we’re doing as response and recovery efforts,” said Adjutant General for the State of Hawaii Department of Defense, Joe Logan. “But it’s also listening to the community to understand what they see and their perception of how things are moving and then where we can help out.”
The Koloa community is mainly focused on rebuilding and refurbishing damaged homes. The most needed items for its affected residents are appliances — like washers, dryers, dishwashers — and gift cards to clothing stores.
Some residents expressed interest in disaster loan programs and financial assistance. Others showed concern for potential health dangers, especially the presence of toxic mold in their homes.
Dr. Janet Berreman with the Department of Health talked about common health hazards associated with flooding, such as leptospirosis and a multitude of infections.
“Kauai is special, because we’re resilient, we’re strong, we help each other out,” she said. “Our biggest strength is community.”
According to Berreman, most of the hazards are associated with the environment, such as brown water, waste and mold.
“Mold can be especially problematic for people who have breathing or respiratory problems,” Berreman said.
Affected residents who need to renovate their homes can qualify for financial aid, as well as low-interest loans to help rebuild their lives.
According the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the preliminary damage assessments will be finalized today to determine if a presidential declaration warrants expedited support from federal, county and state agencies.