After Civil Beat reported that more than half a dozen homeless people were left behind during the March 11 tsunami evacuation, Honolulu is revisiting its tsunami response plan.

While the new plan may improve access to free transportation, homeless people with physical handicaps may still be on their own.

During the tsunami warning, the city’s Department of Community Services worked with local service agencies to alert the homeless to the impending danger and provide transportation from three locations: the North Shore, Kakaako Park and the Leeward Coast. But some homeless were still inside the inundation zone at about the time the tsunami was expected to strike. At least one said he was physically incapable of walking himself to higher ground.

Community Services director Sam Moku could not give us a good reason why some homeless fell through the cracks in the department’s evacuation plan. He told Civil Beat he would address the issue.

“This was really our first time in the administration, well for me, to figure out what really happens,” Moku said. “When all this occurred, I pulled out a file that (former director Debbie Kim Morikawa) had and I made calls. But I didn’t have all the service providers who were able to help.”

Moku’s revised plan consists of providing free evacuation transportation in nine strategic locations island-wide — one in each council district. While it may make evacuation vehicles more accessible for the physically hardy, it likely will not improve accessibility for the physically disabled who cannot walk themselves to safety.

“We hope that through all the communication lines that were available, that people would be smart enough to move out of the areas,” Moku said. “I know we have Civil Defense out there… We were really more there to kind of help support the effort. We want to make sure if there are any pukas or gaps, we can help fill those gaps. But I don’t think we’re going to answer all the possible issues that could be out there.”


Civil Beat reporter Adrienne LaFrance contributed to this report.

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