Rescuers pluck hikers from flooded regions of Kauai

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LIHUE, Hawaii -- The Kauai Fire Department since April has rescued scores of visitors who have become stranded in various parts of the island as heavy rains have caused raging waters around streams and waterfall pools.

The most recent rescue occurred earlier this month, when Kauai firefighters rescued eight visitors stranded at Kipu Falls.

Two of the visitors were swept over the 20-foot-high waterfall, and one broke a leg, said Kauai fire battalion chief Ernie Moniz. Two others were trapped above the falls, and four were trapped near the pool below.

"We used a helicopter, ropes and netting to get them out," said Moniz.

In April, 21 campers returning from a trek on the popular Napali Coast were stranded for three days when rising water made the Hanakapiai stream impassable. None of the 21 was injured.

Bad weather made a helicopter rescue impossible, so the fire department brought in food and blankets and ferried the campers across the stream with ropes.

Kauai Visitors Bureau executive director Sue Kanoho said visitors should always ask a local person about the weather before beginning a hike in the mountains.

"We are so aware of the weather here. If visitors have any contact with locals or the outfitters, they are probably warned; but if they just grab a guidebook and go out, that's when they run into problems," said Kanoho.

Even though the island is relatively small, weather patterns vary greatly. It can be sunny and dry in one place and rainy and flooding in another. The fire chief added that most people "don't realize how fast a stream will rise and sweep you away when it rains."

The visitors bureau recommends that hikers call its information line to check on the safety of a particular area. The number is (800) 262-1400.

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