Hawaii vol­cano’s toll nears 700 homes; no end in sight

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Trevor Hughes

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.

The lava is 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 lava flows have forced thou­sands from their homes, al­though many have been al­lowed to re­turn tem­po­rar­ily, 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.”

“There is no magic wand for this event.” Robert Fen­ton A FEMA ad­min­is­tra­tor

L.E. BASKOW/AP

Lava from the Ki­lauea vol­cano flows near the Puna Geother­mal Ven­ture power plant Sun­day in Pa­hoa, Hawaii.

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