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The Story of Puumaile:Part One
Amazing tsunami stories turn up in the most unusual way. Last year a book purchased at a garage sale had a neatly printed seven page letter inside dated June 8, 1946 that chronicled the happenings of the April 1st tsunami. Today we will share some of that letter in reference to Puumaile, the hospital located at the end of the paved road in Keaukaha just past the Richardson Ocean Center. The author from 40 Halaulani Place wrote:
Puumaile Home, a tubercular hospital is the last building on Keaukaha point, excepting the two cottages of the hospital doctors. At the time of Puumaile construction in 1939, a seawall was erected for the possible protection of the hospital and regarded by many as an unnecessary nuisance since it shut off a particularly beautiful view of the coast line. But on April 1st even with this protection, the waves dashed over the seawall and the water surrounded the hospital. Fortunately this fine hospital stood firm while the homes of Dr. Ireland, resident physican was entirely swept away, the doctor himself almost drowned, and the house of Dr. Leslie was badly damaged. Both houses were near the end of the seawall.
The outlook for Puumaile became so alarming that the medical director advised immediate evacuation of the 300 patients. At 10:00 a.m. the patients were moved to the cottages of the men employees, located on higher ground. A temporary kitchen and laundry were set up and a lunch was served. Two Army trucks and a bulldozer made their way through to Puumaile over the sub-structure of the washed-out road bed. On arrival, the army authorities ordered evacuation to the Naval Air Station barracks. Another evacuation began at 2:30 p.m. with the aid of the trucks. At the inundated section rubber rafts ferried the patients across. The Navy prepared the meals, the Red Cross and the Board of Health nurses assisted in serving. For twelve days the Puumaile patients remained at the airport, thankful to the United States Forces for their kindly treatment.
Mary K., a cleaning lady at the hospital was working on the sea side area of the corridor when the tidal waves began to come in. A number of nurses and aides were excitedly watching the unusual heights of the waves dashing over the stone wall. Ignorant of any danger, they were wildly exclaiming and laughing over the tempestuous waves. Mary, quietly praying for the protection of the hospital, reproved the girls, "Don't laugh. This is terrible. Pele will send here revenge for this. Pele's revenge will be terrible, but it will come soon."
Puumaile was saved and Mary was confident her prayers alone had saved Puumaile, while quite as confident that Pele will send down terrible destruction from the volcano to avenge the encroachment of the sea.
Thus we know from this letter that Puumaile was spared in April of 1946 when 90% of the homes along the Keaukaha coast were destroyed. In our next column, we will give you the story of what happened in January of 1947 when Puumaile was destroyed.

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Last Revised November 2007