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Islanders Say Kauai Will Again Be A Tropical Paradise for Tourists

HURRICANE Iniki shredded the lush vegetation of Kauai, a spectacularly beautiful spot known as the Garden Island.

The 160 m.p.h. blasts mowed down sugar cane and uprooted trees.

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The wind denuded an island landmark, the arching branches of eucalyptus trees that created the mile-long Tree Tunnel.

The estimated $1 billion in damage to homes, businesses, and public property doesn't include the devastation to wildlife and vegetation.

"There were massive alterations to the landscape," said Mayor JoAnn Yukimura. "But it will be back in a few months and it will be all lush and green again."

Tourism represents 80 percent of the island economy, with agriculture the second-biggest moneymaker. Some sugar plantations survived, as did new plantings.

The many species of birds also seem to have survived Iniki's wrath. "Usually we hear the wonderful sounds of birds. I was worried. But listen, they're back," Paul Lucas said.

Another resident, Wyanne Bunyan, said the area is still "the most beautiful place on Earth."