FEMA has ordered the evacuation of parts of a neighborhood on Hawaii’s Big Island as fast-moving lava from Kilauea volcano threatens to destroy more homes. The volcano first erupted on May 3, 2018 and has destroyed over 100 houses. Since the first eruption, 22 fissure vents have opened on the volcano’s East Rift Zone in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.
Hawaii’s Highway 137 has been blocked by lava, cutting off access to Kapoho Bay, Vacationland, Hwy 132 and the Puna Geothermal power plant. The flowing lava completely filled Kapoho Bay, inundated most of Vacationland and covered all but the northern part of Kapoho Beach Lots. There are several hundred homes in these two subdivisions. Homes in Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland are on smaller lots and are closer together than in other parts of the Puna district.
More than 2,500 local residents have been forced to evacuate the dangerous lava flows and toxic sulfur dioxide fumes that have consumed the neighborhoods. Officials have warned residents of the threat of toxic gases, choking ash plumes, and volcanic glass falling from the sky. When the sulfur dioxide from the fissures mix with sunlight and oxygen it forms a type of volcanic smog called “vog,” which can cause pneumonia and bronchitis-like symptoms.
Lava continues oozing from volcanic fissures, burning homes to the ground and turning into rivers of molten rock. The lava from Kilauea has spread across 2,000 acres of land into the surrounding neighborhoods on Hawaii’s Big Island. The rate of lava flow in the East Rift Zone has increased, advancing at rates up to 300 yards per hour. Officials say flowing lava has reached the Pacific Ocean, creating a steam cloud of lava haze commonly called “laze”. Laze is a mix of hydrochloric acid and fine glass particles. The laze extends 15 miles west of the Big Island and can cause breathing issues and skin irritation.
On May 29, 2018, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported that an ash eruption at Kīlauea summit occurred overnight at around 2 am. According to officials, the resulting ash plume reached 15,000 feet and the wind was blowing in the Northwest direction, sending ash fall out into the surrounding area. A a 4.5 magnitude earthquake was also reported in the summit region of the Kīlauea Volcano at 1:56 a.m. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a statement saying that no tsunami was expected.
Hawaii Civil Defense Service officials said they went through the neighborhood to warn residents this was their last chance to evacuate before their final escape route was cut off by lava Some chose to stay in the area, which now has no power, cell reception, landlines or county water, officials said. Authorities are planning to airlift people out if the lava spreads farther and endangers the dozen or so holdouts. Hundreds of residents are now living in shelters and emergency tents as local residents provide food and supplies.