LIHUE, HAWAII — MILITARY planes flew a round-the-clock airlift of food and medical supplies to the hurricane-ravaged island of Kauai and crews worked yesterday to restore power and telephone service.
At least 8,000 of the resort's 50,000 residents were homeless.
Hurricane Iniki blasted across the area Friday with gusts up to 160 m.p.h., leveling buildings, blocking roads with debris, and severing communications. At least two people died on Kauai. One person was killed on Oahu Island.
With sustained wind of 130 m.p.h., Iniki was the most powerful storm to hit Hawaii this century.
"I saw total devastation. It broke my heart," Kauai Mayor JoAnn Yukimura said after surveying damage Saturday.
"Our whole island is really devastated. It was islandwide," she said. "There is incredible human suffering in terms of loss of homes and dislocation of their lives."
Mayor Yukimura gave a preliminary damage estimate of $350 million to $500 million, but added, "It is clear it will be over that, maybe over a billion dollars."
Hawaii Gov. John Waihee said that he expected the disaster to far surpass that caused by the state's last hurricane - Iwa - a weaker storm that in November 1982 caused $216 million damage, mostly to Kauai.
This weekend, the streets of downtown Lihue were littered with palm fronds and shingles. Pieces of tin roofs were wrapped around trees and utility poles. People worked outside battered homes Saturday, picking up debris and searching for possessions.
Residents and tourists alike told stories of a day they won't soon forget.
Lois Fujii said she huddled in the hallway with her husband and son as the storm blasted away for hours.
"The walls began to tremble," she said. "The seams began to split. The water gushed up. The ceiling started to leak. It's an experience you can't describe until you go through it. We're grateful we're alive."
At least 8,000 people needed temporary housing, said Bob Blair, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The American Red Cross set up 13 shelters on the island.
Two people were killed on Kauai Island by crashing debris. At least 98 people were injured, said Phil Palmer, president of Wilcox Hospital, Kauai's largest.
One person was killed on Oahu 80 miles to the southeast. Oahu, Hawaii's most populous island, was spared the brunt of the storm.
On Kauai, power was out throughout the island and there was no estimate on when it might be restored.
Lihue Airport, its control tower knocked out, was closed to commercial aircraft.
Hawaiian Telephone Company crews were repairing microwave transmission dishes, and hoped to restore partial service yesterday, said field supervisor Norman Ahu. Restoring service completely will take much longer. "Ninty percent of the poles are down on the ground," he said.
President Bush declared most of Hawaii a federal disaster area.
"Our hearts go out to the people of Hawaii and we pledge to stand by them and support at this hour of need," he said Sunday as he departed Andrews Air Force Base for a two-day West Coast campaign trip.
Bush reiterated that he has "no plans right now" to visit Hawaii.
Eight military cargo planes were flying 24 hours a day from Oahu to Kauai with with food supplies, communication equipment, portable kitchens and medical and other relief supplies, said Maj. Wayne Yoshioka of the Hawaii National Guard.