Ige signs emergency proclamation following Leilani lava eruption

  • Hollyn Johnson/Tribune-Herald Smoke rises from Leilani Estates as residents evacuate Thursday evening.
    Mahalo to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and Andrew Richard Hara.
  • Hollyn Johnson/Tribune-Herald Smoke rises from Leilani Estates as residents evacuate Thursday evening.
    Mahalo to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and Andrew Richard Hara.
  • A Hawaii County Civil Defense map illustrating the most at-risk areas in the region.

Gov. David Ige has signed an emergency proclamation after an eruption of lava forced the evacuation of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens.

The lava flow, which emerged from a fissure in Mohala Street between 150-200 yards long, threatens about 770 structures that housed about 1,700 residents.

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Ige’s proclamation declares Leilani Estates to be a disaster area and authorizes the expenditure of state monies for quick and efficient relief. It also authorizes the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to issue warnings and divert traffic away from the area.

“I am in contact with Mayor Harry Kim and Hawai‘i County, and the state is actively supporting the county’s emergency response efforts,” Ige said. “I have also activated the Hawai‘i National Guard to support county emergency response teams with evacuations and security.”

Hawaii County Civil Defense has ordered all residents of the Leilani Estates subdivision as well as Lanipuna Gardens to evacuate the area. Two Red Cross shelters have been established at Pahoa Regional Community Center and Keaau Community Center. The Pahoa Community Center will allow evacuees to bring caged pets; the Keaau Center will not allow pets.

Evacuees are advised to bring an emergency evacuation supply kit including medicine, food and other essential items.

“Remember, this is phase one,” Kim said. “We don’t know what will happen next if anything does.”

No injuries or destroyed homes have yet been reported, Kim said.

The intersections of Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road, Highway 137 and Pohiki Road, and Highway 130 and Leilani Boulevard are closed as the evacuation proceeds. While Leilani residents are allowed into the subdivision to retrieve possessions — passing through Highway 130 — non-residents are urged to stay away so as not to impede the evacuation effort, Kim said.

The National Guard is assisting with the evacuation at a mobile command post established in the area two days ago, in anticipation of such an event.

The Office of the Mayor advises all residents, particularly those within the East Rift Zone, to stay alert, as volcanic activities can take place with little to no warning. While lava and fire pose obvious threats, residents should also be aware of smoke, tremors, poor air quality and the potential for methane gas explosions.

Resident Ikaika Marzo said he saw “tons” of lava “pumping” from a fissure in the ground, filling a space over a hundred yards wide.

“You never expect to see that kind of fountaining outside the crater,” said resident Dawn Javellana. “To see that so close to home, I never could have expected it.”

Residents should make sure they have an emergency plan and discuss it with their families. Residents should listen to the radio for future updates, and report any unusual events to Civil Defense at 935-0031.

Emergency warning sirens will sound to alert residents to check the radio.

Hawaii police chief Paul Ferreira has urged residents to not attempt to approach Leilani Estates to view the lava, as doing so impedes police work and the evacuation effort.

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Puna Geothermal Venture is shutting down operations and removing hazardous chemicals from the facility as part of its emergency plan.

“We will continue to work closely with Civil Defense to monitor and assess the situation,” said Rhea Lee-Moku, Hawai‘i Electric Light spokeswoman. “We strongly encourage the community to be safe and heed the advice of Civil Defense and first responders.” HELCO does not expect a power generation shortfall, despite the shutdown of Puna Geothermal Venture.