National News

Hundreds More Homes Destroyed as Lava Surge Fills Coastal Bay

Posted June 5, 2018 8:59 p.m. EDT

Lava flows from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island wiped out hundreds more homes and then quickly filled a nearby coastal bay, officials said Tuesday, pointing to a volatile new phase in the eruption of one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

Janet Snyder, a spokeswoman for Hawaii County, said that the authorities were still seeking to get a definitive number of homes destroyed in recent days. “But it’s safe to say that hundreds were lost in Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland overnight,” Snyder added, referring to largely rural communities on the island’s far eastern edge that had been largely evacuated before the lava’s powerful new advance.

Mayor Harry Kim’s second home was among the residences destroyed overnight, Snyder said.

Kilauea has been erupting with greater intensity since early May in parts of the Big Island, forcing thousands to evacuate while dealing a severe blow to the island’s tourism industry. Until the overnight destruction, a total of 117 homes had been razed in recent weeks by the eruption, which has also spewed ash thousands of feet into the air.

In addition to devastating residential neighborhoods, lava from Kilauea is reshaping the coastline of the island, the largest in the archipelago that makes up the state of Hawaii. Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey posted stunning video of lava filling in and beginning to forge a delta in the now dryland location that had been known as Kapoho Bay.

“Destruction from the flow is just off the scale,” said Ikaika Marzo, 34, a tour operator on the Big Island who has gained a large following on social media by meticulously documenting Kilauea’s eruption. Marzo said that “a'ā,” a type of flow involving broken lava blocks called clinkers, had covered the entirety of Kapoho Bay.

Parts of Kilauea have been erupting continuously since early 1983. But with the latest releases of lava showing few signs of subsiding, residents are bracing for the possibility that the monthlong phase of the eruption could stretch for weeks or even months.

Officials warned on Tuesday that a large plume of laze, a toxic lava haze composed of hydrochloric acid and tiny shards of volcanic glass, was blowing inland along the coastline, released with the ongoing inundation of Kapoho Bay.

The eruption has also been triggering earthquakes, including a 5.5-magnitude tremor early Tuesday morning at Kilauea’s summit. Scientists with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that no tsunami was expected from the quake.

The recent lava flows from Kilauea, which move relatively slowly, have not produced any fatalities. One man, however, had his leg shattered by lava splatter while on the balcony of his home.

Kim, the Big Island’s mayor, has already issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Leilani Estates, one of the communities hit hardest by the eruption. At least three people were airlifted to safety by the Hawaii National Guard over the weekend as lava encroached some areas.