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Hawaii Earthquake

Things were returning to normal in Hawaii early Monday after a strong earthquake Sunday cut power to much of the 50th state. Hawaiian Electric Inc. reported it had restored power to more than two-thirds of its customers by late Sunday, according to a report on the Web site of The Honolulu Advertiser. All of Maui and 99 percent of the Big Island, epicenter of Sunday's 6.6 magnitude temblor, had power by late Sunday, the Advertiser said.

Greg Knudsen, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said late Sunday that public schools would be open Monday on all islands but the Big Island, where 10 schools were to be closed. The quake and its aftershocks caused structural damage to buildings, but there were no reports of fatalities. The quake struck at 7:07 a.m. Sunday (1:07 p.m. ET) from 24 miles below the west coast of the Big Island, 157 miles southeast of Honolulu, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Seven minutes later, an aftershock measuring 5.8 struck 145 miles southeast of Honolulu from a depth of nearly 12 miles. During the next seven hours, 53 aftershocks reverberated in the state, though none of them with a magnitude exceeding 4.4, the USGS said. Gov. Linda Lingle, speaking from the civil defense headquarters in Honolulu, issued a disaster declaration for Hawaii.

Lingle told reporters she was at a hotel near the epicenter when the jolt hit. "It threw everything in the hotel room around the room -- television, lamps, everything," she said. "I thought that was it, and then we had a second jolt that, while not equal to the first, was very intense with, again, the television and everything else flying. It was at that time when we evacuated to the police station."

A spokeswoman for North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea said the emergency room was "inundated with many lacerations and fractures." At Kona Community Hospital, a 96-bed facility on the Big Island, medical-surgical patients were evacuated after ceilings in the medical-surgical unit fell in, said Terry Lewis, interim director for public relations at the facility.

Across the state, residents reported little panic, and for some the loss of power meant it was time to sit outside, set up barbecues and talk with friends and neighbors, according to an Associated Press report. People heading to open stores for emergency supplies were orderly and calm, the AP reported. Travelers suffered more inconvenience. Waiting rooms at airports filled quickly Sunday.

Service was limited at Honolulu and Maui international airports. A spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration said electrical outages had hamstrung equipment routinely used to screen passengers and luggage. In response, procedures were set up to screen by hand, she said. United Airlines canceled 11 flights to and from Hawaii on Sunday, airline spokesman Brandon Borrman said. Similar delays were occurring across the Pacific. "Hundreds of people are trying to fight their way back," said would-be passenger Robert Kekaula, who was stuck in San Diego, California, awaiting a flight to Hawaii. He was told not to expect one before Tuesday night. Drivers also were urged to stay off roads and highways if possible, to keep them clear for emergency vehicles. Rockslides blocked passage along a number of major routes.

Bill Wong, a Big Island resident, said some buildings were extensively damaged. He said the 100-foot-tall smokestack to a century-old sugar mill collapsed into a pile of rubble. "Everything in our house is damaged," he said.

"Our whole house was rocking; it was swaying from left to right," he said. He described his neighborhood after the quakes as looking "like a war zone." The Federal Emergency Management Agency carried out a preliminary disaster assessment with state officials and sent an emergency response team to Honolulu, a spokesman said. FEMA's Aaron Walker said water quality and sewage on the Big Island were matters of concern, as was the structural integrity of bridges in the state. Earthquakes occur commonly in the Hawaiian islands, said Harley Benz, a seismologist for the USGS in Golden, Colorado.

But they rarely occur with such force. The last such quake struck in Hawaii on November 16, 1983, when a 6.7-magnitude temblor injured six people and 39 houses sustained major damage, the USGS said. Hawaii's largest recorded quake struck the Ka'u District on the island of Hawaii on April 2, 1868, with a magnitude of 7.9. It resulted in 77 deaths -- 31 by a landslide and 46 from a tsunami, the USGS said.

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