Guard preparing for 'worst case' mass evacuation in Kilauea's east rift zone

Published: May. 11, 2018 at 8:12 PM HST|Updated: May. 12, 2018 at 9:21 AM HST
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The National Guard has been assisting with the response to the Puna eruptions since they...
The National Guard has been assisting with the response to the Puna eruptions since they started. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HILO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii National Guard is preparing for a worst-case scenario when It comes to the ongoing volcanic activity: A mass evacuation of as many as 2,000 people who live on Kilauea's east rift zone.

The Hawaii National Guard says it has four Black Hawk helicopters that could be used to get people out of lower Puna.

Two helicopters are already being used to survey land in the area, and it has also two choppers that can be used to airlift patients.

At the Emergency Operations Center in Hilo, a number of members are preparing for that worst-case — in which one or more new lava outbreaks in Puna completely cut off access to homes.

For one guard member, the mission to save lives hits close to home.

Senior Master Sgt. Makani Miller is a Puna resident and said it's "surreal" to be responding to such a large-scale disaster in his own backyard.

Lt. Col. Shawn Tsuha, commander of Task Hawaii, said he's very concerned about the possibility of a major fissure opening up in the east rift zone "that would isolate the communities below Leilani Estates and also block off certain roads that the community needs to evacuate the area."

Officials say the national guard is ready to call for help from other military branches if needed.

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