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Hawaiian: 'We were rocking and rolling'

Story Highlights

• 6.6 quake biggest to hit Hawaii since 1983
• Governor declares statewide emergency
• No reported deaths and no threat of tsunami
• Crews cleaning landslides and large rocks blocking roadways
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) -- Sunday morning brought chaos to the normally serene and lush Big Island of Hawaii as it shook with the state's biggest earthquake since 1983.

Registering 6.6 on the Richter Scale, which classifies quakes above 7.0 as "major," the temblor brought down hospital ceilings and hundred-year-old homes. It sent huge rocks and landslides into roadways and knocked out power to thousands.

But miraculously it did not set off a much feared tsunami or, officials said, cost anyone their life.

"We were rocking and rolling," Anne LaVasseur told The Associated Press.

She felt the quake as she stood on the second floor of her Big Island home.

"I was pretty scared," said LaVasseur. "We were swaying back and forth, like King Kong's pushing your house back and forth." (Watch rocks block roads, damage to buildings -- 2:08 Video)

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle issued a disaster declaration for the entire state about four hours after the strong quake at 7:07 a.m. (1:07 p.m. ET) Sunday.

There have been as many as 20 aftershocks, with the strongest recorded at 5.8, officials told CNN.

Emergency room ceilings collapsed and electricity went out at Kona Community Hospital on the Big Island, which began transporting seriously ill patients and nursing home patients to Hilo Medical Center around 11 a.m. (5 p.m. ET), said spokeswoman Terry Lewis. (Watch how people woke up to shaking and quaking -- 1:28 Video)

No Kona Hospital patients were injured during the quake, Lewis said.

Live footage from KITV showed lines outside grocery stores and crowds growing at gas stations.

Power was restored to Hilo on the Big Island. Power is slowly coming back on throughout Maui, the Hawaii National Guard told The Associated Press.

Officials did not have a firm estimate of how many people were without power. In areas such as Waikiki -- on the island of Oahu -- which relies heavily on tourism, visitors began lining up outside convenience stores to buy water and other supplies. Managers were letting tourists into the darkened stores one at a time.

Bill Wong, a Big Island resident, said damage to buildings was extensive. He said the 100-foot-tall stack 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." (Watch the Big Island's mayor describe the damage -- 4:57 Video)

Officials: Tsunami not a threat

Bruce Pressgrave of the U.S. Geological Survey said preliminary reports indicated the quake was centered along the west coast of the island of Hawaii, referred to as the Big Island, 153 miles southeast of Honolulu, which is on the island of Oahu. There was no threat of a tsunami, the Geological Survey said. (Map)

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano said an aftershock of 4.2 struck about 10 a.m. (4 p.m. ET). This is normal activity, according to the USGS, but it came after a series of at least 10 aftershocks ranging in the 3.0 and lower range.

KITV anchor Shawn Ching said there was "significant" structural damage throughout the Big Island. A spokesperson for a hospital in Waimea said its emergency room was "inundated" with patients who suffered lacerations during the quake.

KITV anchor Mahealani Richardson told CNN the west side of the Big Island is difficult to navigate and has one primary road.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said on KITV that he is looking into whether the area is eligible for federal assistance.

Honolulu International Airport canceled departing flights but was still accepting arriving flights. Officials said power outages had led to plumbing problems at the airport, which was creating an unpleasant situation for workers and travelers who continued to arrive at the airport in hopes of catching a flight.

An airport in Maui suffered some damage but it was unclear if there was an interruption in travel. Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa said city crews were working to clean up the debris.

Cell phone reception was sketchy on the islands, officials said.

Residents were urged to stay at home and not use their telephones to avoid tying up emergency lines.

Lingle said she had no report of fatalities but that boulders fell on highways, rock walls collapsed and televisions had been knocked off stands.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no reason to fear a tsunami, but that did not stop some panicked vacationers from heading to the airport in hopes of catching a flight home, said Erik von Ancken, a reporter from Orlando, Florida. He is vacationing in Hawaii with his fiancee.

"We were walking on some of the paths by the ocean," he said. "The fish in the pond started jumping... the windows on the buildings started to shake. People started to run for higher ground... there was a lot of fear."

Home Depot in Honolulu was one of the few stores open. It reported that it was nearly out of batteries, but still had supplies of propane and charcoal.

Stewart Weinstein, assistant director of the Pacific Tsunami Center, told CNN the quake's magnitude was below the center's threshold to issue a tsunami warning.

"We've been monitoring our sea-level instruments... so we're confident there's not going to be any tsunami effect from this earthquake," he said. Weinstein said the last time Hawaii had a quake of this magnitude was in 1983.

A U.S. Pacific Command spokesman, based in Hawaii, said that there had been no immediate reports of damage to U.S. military assets in Hawaii. There had been no requests for military assistance from civilian authorities, he said.

"Earthquakes like this are not uncommon for the Hawaiian islands," said Harley Benz, a seismologist for the USGS in Golden, Colorado. "The children there and the adults are used to them and often they do practice safety measures."

The last time Hawaii had a quake of this magnitude was November 16, 1983, when a 6.7-magnitude temblor injured six people and 39 houses suffered major damage, according to the USGS.

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.

CNN's Barbara Starr and Jeanne Meserve contributed to this story.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.


Officials are still assessing damage in Hawaii, but there have been no reports of deaths caused by the earthquake.




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