(Reuters) – Heavy rains breached a dam on the Hawaiian island of Maui, causing floods that damaged homes and bridges, while spurring authorities to open evacuation shelters after ordering everyone to leave the vicinity.
The rains led to the cresting of the Kaupakalua dam in the island’s northern region of Haiku, state emergency management officials said in a statement.
“Failure of the dam will produce life-threatening flooding as well as significant property damage in areas downstream,” weather officials in Honolulu, the state capital, said in a statement.
Evacuation shelters were being opened at a community centre and a high school, Governor David Ige said.
“Maui county officials have been informed that Kaupakalua dam has been breached,” Ige said on Twitter late on Monday, announcing that evacuations had begun.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said six homes were heavily damaged or destroyed after the dam flooded the Haiku area. Two bridges were also destroyed, a reporter for Fox affiliate KHON2 News said on Twitter.
The earthen dam, dating from 1885, is 57 feet (17.4 m) high and 400 feet (122 m) long, and belongs to the East Maui Irrigation Co.
The owners received a deficiency notice about the dam last year from the state, KHON2 News said in a report. It was one of nine cited as being in poor or unsatisfactory condition.
The state land department is charged with inspecting about 135 registered dams statewide.
In 2006, seven people died after the Ka Loko dam collapsed on the island of Kauai.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)