Lava nears remaining homes in subdivision

  • U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY photo

    Lava enters the sea along the Kapoho coastline Thursday, building a delta that is now more than 555 acres in size.

  • HAWAII FIRE DEPARTMENT photo An aerial view Thursday of the lava channel and active margins between Kapoho Crater, upper right, and the coast, lower left. The northern margin of the flow field is advancing at several points in the area of Kapoho Ag and Beach Lots (vegetated areas in center of image).

The eruption on Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone continues to consume the few remaining homes in Kapoho Beach Lots.

According to Hawaii County, there were only four homes left in the subdivision, one of several inundated by the eruption that began May 3 in Leilani Estates.

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The county’s official tally of destroyed homes was 668 on Thursday, but the actual number is likely more than 700.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said fissure 8, which is feeding the long lava channel to the ocean, had created a spatter cone 180 feet tall. HVO personnel noted during an overflight Thursday morning that the fountain and lava level in the upper channel were lower than past mornings.

Small overflows were occurring along the channel and lava was entering the ocean near Kapoho over a broad area mostly on the north side of the flow. The ocean entry has added about 555 acres of new land to the coast.

Fissure 22 was sporadically spattering Thursday morning. Its flow possibly stalled, according to HVO.

Steve Brantley, HVO deputy scientist-in-charge, told those at a community meeting Tuesday night in Pahoa that he is surprised the eruption has lasted this long.

Collapse explosions at the Kilauea summit, driven by the withdrawal of magma, are occurring every 20-30 hours, he said.

The collapse of Halema‘uma‘u crater inside the summit caldera is starting to pull in land halfway across the caldera, Brantely said.

It also was noted during the meeting that an air-quality monitor in Leilani Estates was stolen last week. Aaron Ueno, the state Department of Health’s Hawaii Island district manager, said it was replaced at another location in the subdivision. He said the Environmental Protection Agency will be withdrawing its monitors, but DOH will have enough to replace them.

Ueno said monitor readings weren’t available late last week because of a server failure. One in Pahoa began providing misreadings after they were brought back online, including during a heavy sulfur dioxide event.

He said it was providing readings in parts per billion, rather than parts per million, making it appear that gas levels were extraordinarily high.

State Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, D-Puna, criticized the county during the meeting for sending out alerts regarding elevated levels without saying how high the readings were or when the danger was over.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster recovery center in Keaau will remain open seven days a week, but some of its hours are changing. Starting Saturday, it will be open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays.

FEMA spokeswoman Renee Bafalis said Thursday that 1,942 households had registered with the agency and that $2.1 million had been approved through its individual assistance program. The U.S. Small Business Administration had approved $5.5 million in loans to households and businesses, she said.

Bafalis said residents can receive rental assistance through FEMA whether their home is inaccessible or destroyed.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which is assisting the county with law enforcement, said 84 citations have been issued as a result of people being in areas closed because of the eruption. That includes a Pahoa man who was cited twice. Overall, citation rates have dropped during the past week, according to DLNR.

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Reporter John Burnett contributed to this report.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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