National News

Hawaii farmers risk lava and toxic air to save produce after Kilauea volcano

Posted June 20, 2018 2:28 a.m. EDT

— Rusty and Jenny Perry fled their home in Hawaii's Big island last month to escape bubbling lava following the Kilauea volcano eruption.

The couple grows lychee, bananas and papaya on their farm in Kapoho. When they evacuated, they missed shipments of produce to other parts of the state. And with that came lost income.

"It's just waiting there, waiting to be picked," Jenny Perry told CNN affiliate Hawaii News Now.

But even as their produce awaits, they've been sneaking onto the farm to salvage what they can. To avoid the dangers associated with lava, they've been using an entrance through their neighbor's land and back roads.

With the help of employees, the couple goes in a few days every week and takes out produce.

"My neighbor said go through my property, if you have to cut the fence, cut the fence. So we did," Jenny Perry said. "Very lucky. So many of my friends have lost everything."

The state department of agriculture says the eruption has caused losses of more than $14 million for farmers, according to the affiliate.

Lava from the Kilauea volcano covers nearly 6,000 acres since it started erupting May 3, and has destroyed about 500 homes.

Fissure 8 fountains is still feeding lava into a channel that flows to the ocean at Kapoho, according to the US Geological Survey.

Lava flowing in to the ocean can create "laze," a mash-up of lava and haze that occurs when hot lava hits the ocean, sending hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles into the air.