Hawaii County authorities have issued an evacuation notice to 4,000 residents in the path of the Kilauea lava flow. The lava has increased speed, now moving at about 20 yards per hour and by Monday night had come within about 70 yards of the nearest homes. At that rate, the flow was expected to reach the closest home later Monday night. The residents have already left the area, officials state.
Kilauea began its continuous eruption in 1983 and has threatened other communities with its red-hot flow. The most recent flow began June 27, 2014, poisoning the air with up to 3,600 metric tons of lethal gas and sulfur compounds daily. The deadly emissions have an estimated range of 3/4 of a mile. Usually the lava flows south into the ocean, however, defying its traditional behavior pattern, it has flowed north in the direction of Pahoa for the past two years.
Civil defense workers went door to door in Pahoa, on the Big Island, issuing notice to Hawaiian residents to get out of the path of the lava. Most had somewhere to flee for safety while the remainder headed for the Red Cross shelter at a nearby church. The 2,000 degree lava has already incinerated a local cemetery and threatens 40 to 50 homes and businesses in the evacuation zone. The civil defense authorities are cooperating with public safety officials to track the lava’s movement and advise those with respiratory conditions to take extra precautions and stay inside as much as possible because of the wind and smoke in the air.
The empty homes have attracted looters who drive around looking for abandoned properties. Some houses have been targeted multiple times. Matt Purvis, who owns the Tin Shack Bakery on the Big Island confirms that crime is picking up because the thieves know the area is somewhat deserted and no one is home. Authorities closed Pahoa Village Road, the town’s main street Sunday night, allowing access to residents only.
Hawaiian governor, Neil Abercrombie issued a call for help from the White House last Friday and requested that the area be declared a federal disaster zone to help with funding official aid efforts. Authorities are doing all they can to evacuate people to safety. He told West Hawaii Today that the destruction and damage in the Pahoa area would decimate business in the Puna District. If residents are cut off from access to groceries, gas and medical care, they may have to make the 33-mile drive to Hilo for essential services.
For their part, Hawaiian residents are kicking into gear with emergency preparedness measures such as installing generators in case of power failure, keeping the Internet functional to maintain connection to the outside world and filling up on gas. Business owners are moving merchandise to safety and a local clinic is setting up a mobile medical unit away from the lava flow so they can continue issuing prescriptions and medical care. Authorities acknowledge the difficulties the people face in evacuating their homes and businesses and losing everything to the lava flow. Although they had advance notice, the fateful day is now upon them and a Hawaiian volcano eruption waits for no one so there is nothing to do but remove themselves from danger and let nature take its course.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser