Forced from their homes for weeks, evacuees wonder: What's next?

Forced from their homes for weeks, evacuees wonder: What's next?
Updated: May. 23, 2018 at 5:23 PM HST
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PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Stacy Welch captured incredible footage of roaring lava from the front porch of her home.

Her house — which is still under construction — is still standing.

But it's other hazards — elevated sulfur dioxide levels and cracks widening by feet each day right outside her driveway — that have prevented her and her daughter from being able to return.

Instead, they're living in a tent on a pallet in what was once a fenced dug-out on the Pahoa Recreational Center property where the American Red Cross has set up their shelter.

"I feel like I am in a war zone here and when I go home it is a completely different war zone with different bombs going off," she said.

"Not only are we dealing with everything out here in this environment, we are dealing with everything in another environment — living with 250 people, pets, and security and Red Cross and Civil Defense. It's just overwhelming, completely overwhelming."

Welch is among hundreds of lower Puna evacuees who were forced from their homes nearly three weeks ago and have no idea when — or if — they'll be allowed to return home.

Welch said she is extremely grateful for all the assistance she and her family has received.

But, she adds, it's troubling that there is still no concrete long-term plan from government officials about transitional housing for the more than 2,000 people who have been displaced since the first fissure opened up on Mohala Street.

Welch, like so many others, says she understands she built a life and home on Lava Hazard Zone 1, on the slopes of one of the world's most active volcanoes.

But, she said, she's still a taxpayer like everyone else.

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