After erupting for more than a month, lava from Hawaii’s volcano is flowing east towards the ocean and burning through more residential communities in its path.
On Sunday morning, the lava flowing towards the sea started burning houses in Vacationland and Kapoho Beach Lots. Residents in the area were advised on May 30 to evacuate, since it was clear that the lava would sever a major highway that connects the area to the rest of the island, which it did Saturday.
Kilauea volcano broke the ground on May 3 in the residential neighborhoods of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, with fissures spewing lava as high as 200 feet above the ground. As the lava continued to erupt, three channels flowed down south, where it crossed a major highway and entered the ocean just north of Mackenzie State Park.
From the same fissure area, a new channel started to form last week, but it took off in a different direction — eventually flowing east towards Kapoho. Lava follows the topography of the land, usually flowing down the path of steepest decent, and now the flow is on its way towards beautiful and pristine tide pools.
The lava was 400 yards from the ocean as of Sunday evening, Jim Kauahikaua, a scientist with US Geological Survey, said at a press conference. The flow is headed to Kapoho Bay and the Kapoho Tide Pools (also called the Wai‘ōpae Tide Pools), which are part of a marine conservation district. They are particularly unique because of the many anchialine ponds — landlocked water that has a subterranean connection to the ocean — interconnected to the tide pools. The area is also a marine nursery and is warmed by the volcano, making it a highly desirable snorkel spot.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno estimated that there are at least a dozen people who have not evacuated, but that they have no way of communicating with anyone remaining in Kapoho, since phone and power service is no longer working in the isolated area.
A helicopter contracted by the USGS rescued three people trapped in the area isolated by lava on Sunday morning, according to Magno.
On Saturday night, 393 people stayed at one of the three shelters that have been opened for lava evacuees, which includes both people who have now been there for over a month as well as evacuees from Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland.
An eruption in 1960 covered the town originally known as Kapoho, where there were about 100 homes at the time, but since then the area had not seen any lava. Despite being on the east flank of the volcano, Kapoho rebuilt as a gated community with its swimmable coastline. At least a 1,000 people live there, although many of the oceanfront homes are multi-million dollar vacation retreats.
There are now 87 homes that have been destroyed by lava, but the count does not include the new communities, which had not yet been counted. Magno said the lava “doesn’t show any sign of slowing down” and he expected destruction to continue.