Slow-moving lava creeps closer to Hawaii homes

2014-10-29 09:08
File: AP

File: AP

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Pahoa - After weeks of slow, stop-and-go movement, a river of asphalt-black lava was less than the length of a football field from homes in a Big Island community on Tuesday.

The lava flow easily burned down an empty shed at about 07:30, several hours after entering a residential property in Pahoa Village, said Hawaii County Civil Defence Director Darryl Oliveira.

A branch of the molten stream was less than 90 metres from a two-story house. It could hit the home later Tuesday if it continues on its current path, Oliveira estimated.

Residents of Pahoa Village, the commercial centre of the island's rural Puna district south of Hilo, have had weeks to prepare for what's been described as a slow-motion disaster. Most have either already left or are prepared to go.

Residents of Pahoa Village, the commercial centre of the island's rural Puna district south of Hilo, have had weeks to prepare for what's been described as a slow-motion disaster. Most have either already left or are prepared to go.

Tropical storm

At least 50 or 60 structures — including homes and businesses — are in the area likely to be hit.

On Tuesday morning, civil defense officials said the lava was about 460 metres from Pahoa Village Road, which runs through downtown and is one of the town's main roads.

Scientists began warning the public about the lava from Kilauea volcano 22 August. At the time, residents were cleaning up from a tropical storm that made landfall over the Puna district.

The flow's advance has been inconsistent, ranging from about 1.8 metres to 18 metres per hour, depending on topography, said Janet Babb, a spokeswoman for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

County officials are making arrangements for those living in the lava's path to be able to watch the flow destroy their homes as a means of closure.

Cleansing quality

"You can only imagine the frustration as well as ... despair they're going through," Oliveira said.

Some schools are closing this week and sending their students to a temporary facility and to other area schools.

Crews have been building alternate roads, and officials are preparing for the lava to cut off access for some residents who are assigned to vote on 4 November at the Pahoa Community Center.

The center will remain open for voting for those who can reach it. Those living on the north side of the flow who are assigned to the center can instead go to the Hawaiian Paradise Community Center.

Terri Mulroy, who runs Kumu Aina Farm with her husband, said the lava flow, while unnerving, has a cleansing quality to it because it keeps development on the lush Hawaiian island in check.

"If it wasn't for the flow, I wouldn't be able to live here," she said. "This land would have been a golf course for the rich."

Read more on:    hawaii  |  volcanos

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