Heavy rains on Kauai let up, which helped emergency workers better rescue people stranded by flooding on the Hawaiian island.

Forty people, mostly tourists, were stuck since Sunday at a Red Cross shelter in a primary school in the north shore town of Hanalei.

Plans to airlift them out of the school, which was surrounded by water, were abandoned because severe weather grounded helicopters, said Coralie Matayoshi, CEO of American Red Cross of Hawaii.

Yesterday, another 21 people made their way to the shelter on personal watercraft and boats, she said. The shelter earlier had run out of food and water, but received adequate provisions yesterday, she said.

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Image taken from video provided by the US Coast Guard shows flooding in Kauai's Hanalei Bay, Hawaii.
Image taken from video provided by the US Coast Guard shows flooding in Kauai's Hanalei Bay, Hawaii.

Hanalei Bridge was open only to emergency vehicles today, so one busload of people from the shelter was moved to another shelter, said Kauai County spokeswoman Sarah Blane.

Efforts to move others out of the shelter were temporarily hampered by a landslide on the highway, she said.

There were no reports of major injuries.

At least two houses on the north shore were completely washed off their foundations, Blane said. The houses were vacant, she said.

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho and Hawaii Governor Davide Ige assessed damage and rescue needs by helicopter.

"The Hawaii National Guard was deployed yesterday, and I am committed to identifying and mobilising additional state assets needed to keep the community safe," Ige said in a statement. "Now that the weather appears to have cleared, our top priority is to get to people who need medical attention and relief supplies."

Blane did not have a number of rescues that took place. "It's definitely the worst storm in recent memory," Blane said.

Some residents said it was worse than Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

The National Weather Service recorded 71.3cm of rainfall in Hanalei. The record for a 24-hour period in Hanalei was set in 2012 at 72.49cm.

"It's highly likely that the record was broken by heavy rainfall after the gauge stopped recording," said meteorologist Chevy Chevalier. The weather service is trying to figure out why the gauge stopped recording, he said.

Meredith Zietz, who was still trapped in her Hanalei home, posted video of a skittish bison as it dashed through her waterlogged yard.

"It was amazing. It looked scared though," she said. She said she believed it was from a buffalo farm near the Hanalei River.

Nearby in Haena, James Hennessy maneuvered his flooded, murky street on a standup paddleboard to check on neighbours.

"We really can't go anywhere," he said, adding that he's was grateful to have electricity, even though there was no water or internet service.

Jeff Culverhouse, manager and partner of a Hanalei shopping mall, was wishing for a hot shower as he pumped water out of lifts. Every shop in the mall was under 5cm of water and thick mud, he said, though a market was open.

"The place is a freaking mess, to say the least," he said.

- AP