Hawaii volcano destroys 31 homes spews lava 200 feet in air

World

Pahoa: The number of homes destroyed by Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano jumped to 31 as scientists reported lava spewing more than 200 feet (61 meters) into the air.

Some of the more than 1,700 people who evacuated prepared for the possibility they may not return for quite some time.

Hawaii officials said the decimated homes were in the Leilani Estates subdivision, where molten rock, toxic gas and steam have been bursting through openings in the ground created by the volcano. Officials updated the number of lost homes after an aerial survey of the subdivision.

“That number could change,” Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder said. “This is heartbreaking.” Amber Makuakane, 37, a teacher and single mother of two, said her three-bedroom house in Leilani Estates was destroyed by lava.

The dwelling was across from a fissure that opened Friday, when “there was some steam rising from all parts of the yard, but everything looked fine,” Makuakane said.

On Saturday, she received alerts from her security system that motion sensors throughout the house had been triggered. She later confirmed that lava had covered her property.

“They don’t really understand,” she said about her children. “My son keeps asking me, ‘Mommy when are we going to go home?'” Makuakane grew up in the area and lived in her house for nine years. Her parents also live in Leilani Estates.

“The volcano and the lava — it’s always been a part of my life,” she said. “It’s devastating … But I’ve come to terms with it.” Lava has spread around 387,500 square feet (36,000 square meters) surrounding the most active fissure, though the rate of movement is slow. There was no indication when the lave might stop or how far it might spread.

“There’s more magma in the system to be erupted. As long as that supply is there, the eruption will continue,” US Geological Survey volcanologist Wendy Stovall said.

Traditional Hawaiian beliefs say it depends on Pele, the volcano goddess who is said to reside in Kilauea.

“You have to ask Pele,” Steve Clapper said when asked whether he had any idea when he’d return to his Leilani Estates home.

Clapper had to put his ailing 88-year-old mother into a car and leave shortly after hearing an ominous rumbling behind the house. He believes he saw its roof still standing in photos of the area but can’t be sure. Still, the California native was sanguine as he assessed his situation.

“What can you do? You have no control over it,” Clapper said as he started his day at a nearby evacuation shelter. “Pele’s the boss, you know.” Cherie McArthur wondered what would become of her macadamia nut farm in Lanipuna Gardens, another evacuated neighborhood near Leilani Estates.

One of the year’s first harvests had been planned for this weekend.

“If we lose our farm, we don’t know where we’re going to go. You lose your income and you lose your home at the same time,” said McArthur, who’s had the farm for about 20 years. “All you can do is pray and hope and try to get all the information you can.” About 240 people and 90 pets spent Saturday night at shelters, the American Red Cross said.

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