Displaced residents assess next steps as lava destroys homes, farm land
PAHOA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of displaced residents are assessing their next steps as lava is steadily pumping from four fissures in lower Puna where destructive flows have destroyed hundreds of homes.
Since eruptions began in early May, 24 fissures have split open Big Island ground, causing the state to evacuate entire communities and leaving many to stay with loved ones, in shelters, or moving off the island entirely.
One couple was about to apply drywall to their retirement home on Kupono Street when the first eruption broke out in Leilani Estates. Twenty-three fissures later, their home is now in an area that's been classified as uninhabitable.
They're among the many who are seeking assistance from insurance companies, as well as federal and state organizations to determine how they will move forward.
State officials say that Big Island farmers were among the hardest hit in terms of land and production loss. The state department of agriculture estimates losses due to the eruption event at more than $14 million for farming operations.
Rusty and Jenny Perry owners of a farm in Kapoho, were forced to evacuate weeks ago, only being able to take items from their home.
The large, channelized lava flow that has been creating new land over Kapoho Bay goes right over what used to be the driveway of the Perry's property.
Of the four fissures still actively pumping lava, officials are focusing most of their attention on fissure 8, which has been feeding into a flow that covered Kapoho Bay, and is feeding into the ocean.
At last check, officials say lava feeding into the ocean has created more than 9 square miles, destroying at least 533 homes, but officials believe the number may be closer to 700.
Large earthquakes and steam explosions at the summit of Kilauea have also been occurring on an almost daily basis in the past few days, with one happening approximately 24 hours after the next, and scientists say the activity is following a "fairly reliable pattern."
Tuesday marked the eighth day in a row that there was an earthquake above a magnitude of 5.0 at the summit. None of them was strong enough to trigger a tsunami, and all of them were triggered by an explosive eruption at the summit.
"So as long as the summit explosions continue, there likely will be earthquakes and ground shaking associated with the explosion," said Alex Demas with USGS.
Civil Defense officials said that they're beginning to scale back operations because while lava continues to spew from the earth at a high rate, it's flowing over areas that have already been covered and hitting the sea off coastal communities that have already been destroyed.
"We've pretty much thrown everything at this event for the past month and half now," said Talmadge Magno, civil defense administrator. "Some aspects of it can kind of start to scale down as the volcano somewhat runs into a stable situation."
Magno stressed that Civil Defense will remain activated round the clock, and that residents should remain vigilant.
This story will be updated.
Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.