'Hang in people': Big Island Mayor Harry Kim offers words of encouragement to lava evacuees

(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)

PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The lava flow that caused the sudden loss of Kapoho Bay in the past 48 hours has taken away properties, livelihoods and an iconic shoreline.

Concerned community members packed Pahoa High Tuesday evening for a progress update on the planned evacuation route and emergency housing units. Gregory Braun is one of hundreds of property owners assessing the damage wrought by ongoing eruptions.

"I lost everything," said the Vacationland resident Gregory Braun.

His wife lost a vacation rental cottage near Waiopae tidepools, and his 41-year-old flower business, Asia Pacific Flowers — which encompassed five acres of orchids — is now gone.

"Hawaii probably lost half of the state's cut flower orchid production in four days," Braun said. "We just didn't believe it would happen. We were there for so long and we were so established."

Experts say there is still plenty of lava feeding the delta that now extends nearly a mile from the coast.

On Tuesday, the Governor issued a second supplemental emergency proclamation with rules to help shelters, law enforcement, and disaster response.

In addition, the state and county are trying to fast-track some permanent housing as hundreds of new evacuees suddenly find themselves homeless.

Dodie Jordan and her husband were forced from their rental in Kapoho Beach Lots. She said finding a new place to stay won't be easy.

"It's incredibly emotional.  I've seen this incredible bay and area that we love and was dear to our hearts just change within hours. Not even days. She's covered so much ground so fast. I don't know what Madame Pele's ideas are, but she changed a really pretty place," said Jordan.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim has seen plenty of lava flows, tsunamis and damaging storms going back decades.

He also has a home in Kapoho that was destroyed by lava on Tuesday, and he told weary families that he hopes to build an entirely new community. At the meeting, Kim asked residents to trust him.

"In the darkest of times I asked you to stick with us. Together, all of us, as a community," said Mayor Kim. "Hang in people, we'll get it done."

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