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Hawaiians thankful: No deaths or
serious injuries from powerful quakes

KAILUA KONA, Hawaii (BP)–Hawaii Baptists are expressing thanks that no deaths or serious injuries were reported when a 6.7-magnitude earthquake shook the island chain around 7 a.m. local time Sunday, Oct. 15.

The quake was the strongest to hit Hawaii in more than two decades, and it was followed by several aftershocks, including one measuring 6.0.

Bob Duffer, director of missions for the Neighbor Islands Baptist Associations of Hawaii, told Baptist Press that First Baptist Church of Waimea in Kamuela on the Big Island sustained some water damage from broken pipes and some broken windows. At the parsonage there, a chimney fell and caused some structural damage.

Waikoloa Baptist Church, also on the Big Island, was closest to the epicenter of the earthquake, and the church’s pastor, Emerson Wiles, said people were grateful to be recovering material possessions rather than lost lives.

“Surprisingly, there’s very little damage in our entire village,” Wiles told BP. “I know there are a few houses that had some of their foundations messed up, and several rock walls have fallen.”

Most residents were dealing with cleaning up personal items that had fallen off walls and shelves in their homes, such as broken dishes, pictures and mirrors, Wiles said. He mentioned the challenge of cleaning up messes like molasses, cooking oil, flour and sugar mixed together on a kitchen floor.

“The hot water heater for the church is in my office, and it shook a pipe loose,” Wiles said. “It was an hour before I went down to the church. My office has some water damage, but other than that, everything looks good. I think everybody is just happy nobody was hurt, and they’re cleaning up on the inside of their houses, basically.

“We feel fortunate,” he added. “When something that strong can move your house, you’re just fortunate nobody’s hurt.”

Phone service was knocked out on a couple of the islands, but by early Monday most of the lines had been restored, the Associated Press reported. Civil engineers were inspecting bridges, roads, earthen dams and schools for structural damage, and one official said the timing of the earthquake surely prevented some tragedies.

“If you’re going to have an earthquake, you couldn’t have had it at a better time — early in the morning when people aren’t even out of their homes yet,” Dave Curtis, a Civil Defense Agency spokesman told AP.

Duffer recounted his earthquake experience in a report posted on the Neighbor Islands Associations website, www.hawaiibaptist.org.

“This Sunday morning started with a clear sky and a brilliant sunrise but minutes later, the earth began to shake,” Duffer wrote. “Since we often have little earthquakes, my first thought was, ‘Oh, nice, another little quake.’ But that thought didn’t last long as the intensity increased and the shaking continued. ‘This is a big one,’ I called out to June, who was already moving to stand in a doorway. The house made all types of noises as it shook back and forth. Things began to fall from the walls and shelves.”

At Duffer’s home, a television set fell into multiple pieces, a chest of drawers overturned, some lamps fell over and canned goods littered the kitchen floor, he reported.

“But we were thankful that not more damage was done and that no one was hurt,” Duffer wrote, adding that since Hawaii is in a high earthquake risk zone the churches and individuals affected do not have earthquake insurance. The two Baptist churches that sustained damage will need help in making repairs, he said.

Veryl Henderson, executive director of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention, said the story emerging from Hawaii in the aftermath of the earthquake is one of “good fortune” as God protected people, but Baptists there can learn some lessons from the earthquake.

“I think our churches are doing a lot of reflection and discovering that we need to be better prepared because if we’re going to be the caregivers for our community we need to have ourselves ready to serve,” Henderson told BP. “We discovered we weren’t ready. Even though we have a disaster relief response unit, we do not have readiness at each of our churches. So pray that we get the lessons that we need to be God’s messengers in these times of crisis and be prepared to serve Him.”

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  • Erin Roach