Amid eruptions and evacuations, Puna families say they're grateful for each other

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Around 1,700 Leilani Estates residents have been displaced by the now 15 eruptions that have destroyed dozens of homes, cars and buildings in the Puna neighborhood.

Several residents have expressed a range of emotions, from shock to devastation, over losing the things they once held dear to Madame Pele's wrath.

When the 15th fissure opened up in Leilani Estates, some families didn't even have enough time to gather all of their belongings.

Vera Timko and her family of four were packing up their things on Wednesday afternoon when they suddenly heard the wail of sirens.

"First, we heard the siren, then they personally came to each house and said evacuate, evacuate, evacuate," Timko said.

Timko and her family were among the few residents who were allowed back into their homes on Wednesday in Lanipuna Gardens.

"We went back to get some personal belongings for the family and the evacuation started," Timko said. "It was intense, first one in my life."

It wasn't until later that the Timko's family found out they were experiencing the effects of the area's 15th fissure. She said the experience was jarring for her family.

"The kids kind of, got all shaky, so I just tried to be calm for them," Timko said. "It was intense, you know?"

While the family didn't make it out with all of their belongings, they say they're happy and grateful to have made it out together.

"We're together and that's all that matters," Timko said.

The Kealoha family was also grateful to be together. They said this isn't the first time they've had to flee from fire.

Kelena Kealoha, his wife Zoe, and their two daughters moved to Leilani Estates on the Big Island — from the North Bay area.

The family had already escaped wildfires in Northern California before moving to Puna, and had planned to set down roots.

"I was gonna raise my daughters here, but it doesn't look like it was going to turn out to be the scenario we hoped," Kelena Kealoha said.

Although the Kealoha family's next steps are unclear, they plan on staying with family in Kona for now.

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