A volcanic eruption on the island of Hawaii caused widespread damage and resulted in the evacuation of about 1,700 locals this week.
According to CBS News, Hawaii Gov. David Ige responded by declaring a state of emergency for the impacted area near the village of Pahoa.
The lava initially began to pour through cracks in the Kilauea volcano’s eastern rifts, which are located miles from the mountain’s summit.
Though there were no immediate reports of injuries, those displaced by the eruption described the frantic scene as they rushed to escape their homes Thursday evening.
Jeremiah Osuna said he kept an eye on the damage with a drone, describing a “curtain of fire” cutting through a wooded area near his home.
“It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could,” he said. “You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff.”
One resident displaced by the evacuation said he only had time to retrieve a relative’s ashes before exiting his home.
In an update on the situation, Ige confirmed that about 770 structures were threatened by the fiery lava.
UPDATE: The lava is flowing onto streets in the subdivision, which consists of about 770 structures. The lava flow has prompted the mandatory evacuation of about 1,700 residents of Leilani Estates.Residents are being sheltered at Pāhoa Community Center & Kea‘au Community Center.
— Governor David Ige (@GovHawaii) May 4, 2018
“The lava flow has prompted the mandatory evacuation of about 1,700 residents of Leilani Estates,” he wrote. “Residents are being sheltered at Pahoa Community Center & Kea’au Community Center.”
As the recreation director for the Pahoa Community Center explained, those arriving to the shelter were anxious to learn details of the situation.
“They just want to know what’s going on because they were told it’s a mandatory evacuation,” Ranson Yoneda said.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, shared updates as the lava and fire spread, including dramatic footage recorded from the air.
This is real-time video from Jeremiah Osuna of Leilani Estates on the Big Island. Mandatory Evacuation of Leilani Estates. Shelters at Pahoa Community Center and Keeau Community Center. Please be safe. pic.twitter.com/ECEbNgaj6d
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) May 4, 2018
KGMB reported that lava shot as high as 100 feet in the air and its movement seemed to specifically threaten the community of Leilani Estates.
Authorities say new eruptions could break through vents in other areas without warning. An additional threat, according to fire officials, is dangerously elevated levels of sulfur dioxide in the air.
Though the disruption was serious and the extent of damage remains to be seen, many of those affected were able to take an optimistic look.
“My family is safe, the rest of the stuff can be replaced,” one local said.
That local said it was clear “this day would eventually come,” but Thursday’s eruption means “the reality is sinking in now.”
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