Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said lava from the Kilauea volcano has destroyed more than 600 homes since early last month. The lava has covered more than 5,000 acres. Scientists say it is also very thick.
Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY
Lava from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has destroyed about 600 to 700 homes since it began flowing early last month and there’s no sign of it stopping anytime soon, officials said Monday.
Punctuating that point, Kilauea again erupted early Tuesday with a blast similar to a series of explosions that have sent towering columns of ash high above the island. A 5.3-magnitude earthquake accompanied the latest eruption.
“To all the victims out there of this very, very bad time, I say it publicly, it hurts like hell today,” Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said at a news conference late Monday.
The current lava eruption began May 3 in the Leilani Estates neighborhood, about 35 miles away from the island’s largest city of Hilo. For weeks, the lava oozed through the town, burning down homes and the surrounding jungle. But in the past two weeks, more vigorous lava flows have poured downhill to the coast, blocking roads and destroying hundreds of homes in the Kapoho and Vacationland areas.
Lava from the Kilauea volcano flows in and around Pahoa, Hawaii on June 10, 2018. L.E. Baskow, AP
The lava is also flowing into the ocean, where it has created about 200 acres of new land, while also releasing dangerous gas plumes and causing explosions as the molten rock hits the cold water.
Many people whose homes have been destroyed don’t have insurance, and FEMA officials are working with local authorities to get disaster assistance to those who qualify. Many won’t: FEMA payments generally won’t cover second homes or vacation property or buildings erected without proper permits, and many of the properties in the path of the lava fall into those categories.
The ongoing lava flows have forced thousands of people from their homes, although many have been allowed to return on a temporary basis, particularly in the Leilani Estates area.
“There is no magic wand for this event,” said Robert Fenton, a FEMA administrator. “It’s going to take a whole community effort.”