Home / QRCodes / Suisan

Suisan has a rich and long history here in Hilo and has had its fair share of obstacles just as many other businesses have had in the low-lying coastal areas here in town. This business has thrived in its location around the mouth of the Wailoa River despite being badly damaged in both the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis. 

Al Inoue was a young man at the time of the 1957 tsunami. He had been through the 1946 tsunami but was only 4 years old at the time and only remembers small flashes of what occurred. In 1957 he was down in Waiakea town close to the mouth of the Wailoa River. He climbed up a telephone pole and took pictures with his dad’s camera of a boat that was tied to the dock but got ripped away and pushed under the bridge. “And the current was pushing it inland you know up the river and the amazing thing is that both boats just kind of folded under the bridge…..” There were no lives lost from the tsunami in 1957. The next tsunami that came hit in 1960 and originated from Chile in South America. Like many others he went down towards the Wailoa Bridge and Suisan area to watch the waves come in not expecting a devastating tsunami. When he arrived, he saw many others and could hear the engines of cars running, waiting in case they needed a quick getaway. He could see the water surge in, then recede a few times but nothing substantial had yet happened. Shortly after that the water receded further than before, and he could hear powerlines arcing and falling further down the bay in the downtown area. He then saw people on the bridge start running away. Right before he turned to run himself, he saw the brown dirty wave come up the river, “… it was twice as high as the bridge, the Wailoa Bridge.” He ran towards Manono Street seeing flashes and hearing the buzz as electric poles went down behind him. He was able to escape to higher ground but still remembers how loud the waves and crashing buildings sounded, something like a roar or fast-moving train. After reaching safety he and a few others went and got their cars and shown the lights down towards Waiakea town hoping if any survivors were down there, they would come to the lights, since the city was dark. A few people did end up walking out and were taken away by an ambulance. In the morning as the sun came up, he really saw the effects of what truly happened. Daybreak revealed the destruction that once used to be the bustling coastal areas of Hilo.

In 1960 warnings had been given earlier in the day, but not everyone chose to heed them. Tragically, 61 people died in Hilo in the 1960 tsunami despite the warnings. You must heed the warning and take action to avoid becoming a victim. Today our warning sirens are tested at 11:45am on the first working day of the month.