Number of evacuees staying in shelters down

  • Courtesy photo
    Oregon Red Cross volunteer Linda Morris didn’t want to leave after spending two weeks working at the emergency shelter in Keeau.

More than two months since Kilauea volcano began erupting in lower Puna, disaster relief efforts continue for those affected by the ongoing eruption.

The American Red Cross still has volunteers in emergency shelters in both Pahoa and Keaau, although the number of people staying in the shelters is far below its peak.

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On Wednesday night, there were 67 people inside the Pahoa shelter and 80 others camping outside, according to Maria Lutz, regional disaster officer for the Red Cross of Hawaii. And in Keaau, there were 19 people inside and 12 camping outside.

At its highest tally, Lutz said the shelter in Pahoa had about 140 people inside and an estimated 200 outside, while the shelter in Keaau peaked at around 35 people inside and 25 outside.

“Numbers have gone down, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” she said.

According to Lutz, there are still a lot of people to work with on finding housing solutions, and the Red Cross is “really leaning on our partners.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency and county teams have been talking to shelter residents to figure out what their situations are and to find the right housing solutions, she said.

Crisis counselors also have been on hand for those staying in the shelters, and volunteer nurses have also been visiting “and taking care of health needs the clients have,” Lutz said.

Since the Leilani Estates eruption began May 3, 649 volunteers have helped in the shelters, she said.

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“It’s been an amazing volunteer effort and just lots of local folks have come forward and helped, and (we) appreciate the community support.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com