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Managing Director: Some residents defying voluntary evacuation order in Kapoho

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Lava from fissure No. 8 oozes toward Kapoho Bay on Sunday in lower Puna. Special thanks to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Lava from fissure No. 8 oozes toward Kapoho Bay on Sunday in lower Puna. Special thanks to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.

UPDATE 11 a.m. June 4: The county’s second highest-ranking official said there are people remaining in Kapoho who have refused to evacuate despite a large lava flow nearby.

County Managing Director Wil Okabe said this morning he saw a picture of a guy “still working in his yard.”

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Okabe said a fourth person rescued Sunday was a woman who previously refused to go. Evacuations in the Kapoho area are on a voluntary basis, but there all roads in and out of the coastal community in lower Puna have been covered by lava from Kilauea volcano.

“We got her out by helicopter, but she has no wheels. Her car was still there,” Okabe said. “If she had gone out earlier, she would at least have a car.”

According to Okabe, it is still possible for residents to leave by foot via the Kapoho lighthouse road that leads to Champagne Pond.

He said officials still have no estimate on how many residents remain in the Kapoho community and doesn’t understand why people have decided to remain when it was apparent the community was threatened by lava.

“We gave them more than ample information to evacuate the situation,” Okabe said. “We gave them more than the amount of time needed to get their stuff loaded up and take out their valuable things.”

Okabe said that at last resort, a home he owns in Kapoho Beach Lots and a home owned by Mayor Harry Kim in Vacationland were still standing. He said both are used as secondary residences and to host family gatherings.

He said the Hawaii County Fire Department is receiving requests from evacuees to hire private helicopters to go back to retrieve their belongings.

“At this point, (approvals are) kind of on a case-by-case situation, because now the lava’s in the ocean and creating a lot of gases,” Okabe said. “And this puts our first responders at jeopardy, too. We want safety for

our people and also safety for our first responders.”

There have also been reports of tourists, photographers and thrill-seekers avoiding police checkpoints and entering the area by foot, by boat and perhaps by helicopter. Okabe said he couldn’t confirm that.

Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for Mayor Harry Kim, said this morning the lava hitting the ocean is causing laze, a hazardous, caustic gas containing hydrochloric acid and small particles of volcanic glass. She said residents, first-responders and others, are advised to stay a quarter-mile away from the laze plume emanating from the lava entry at Kapoho Bay.

UPDATE 8:20 a.m. June 4: Hawaii County Civil Defense said this morning that 117 homes are confirmed destroyed by lava.

Janet Snyder, a spokeswoman for Mayor Harry Kim, acknowledged that is a low-ball estimate and doesn’t include homes that were taken overnight by lava that entered the ocean at Kapoho Bay. She said the county doesn’t do a hard count until lava overruns are matched with property tax maps.

Snyder said Fire Department officials estimate homes taken by lava from fissure No. 8 in Kapoho is 20-40, but said laze from the ocean entry prevented officials from getting a definitive look at the damage during a morning flyover. Those homes are not included in the estimate.

She said most homes in Vacationland subdivision are still standing but are threatened, but lava went through Kapoho Beach Lots and an agricultural subdivision on its way to the ocean.

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Lava from Kilauea volcano has entered the ocean in Kapoho Bay in lower Puna.

The lava from fissure No. 8 continues to feed a large, channelized flow that pushed into the bay sometime last night, Hawaii County Civil Defense announced this morning.

Hundreds of homes in Vacationland and Kapoho Beach Lots were potentially in the path of the flow as it neared the bay, but Civil Defense did not provide an update regarding the number of structures that have been destroyed.

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Up to a dozen residents had remained in the area as of late last week.

On Sunday, two men and a woman were picked up by a private helicopter rented by the U.S. Geological Survey. Civil Defense confirmed later that another woman was rescued who had previously refused to evacuate.