More evacuations ordered on Hawaii's Big Island as volcano activity intensifies

Firefighters went door-to-door urging some residents of Leilani Estates on Hawaii's Big Island to leave as lava from ...

Posted: May 27, 2018 1:02 PM
Updated: May 27, 2018 1:02 PM

Firefighters went door-to-door urging some residents of Leilani Estates on Hawaii's Big Island to leave as lava from the Kilauea volcano continued to flow, threatening more homes.

"Any residents remaining in the current affected areas should evacuate now," said an emergency message from the Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Thick waves of fresh lava from fissure 22 and 7 -- which officials say are producing the largest amount of lava -- are blazing down a mound of volcanic rock.

"It's just a matter of time," resident Steve Gebbie says. "I don't know what's going to be left of Leilani, I really think it might be wiped out."

On Saturday, the Hawaii County Civil Defense said lava into the subdivision had slowed. Lava continued to enter the Pacific Ocean near MacKenzie State Park.

A series of volcanic explosions occurred Saturday morning, according to a tweet from USGS Volcanoes. The explosions produced an ash cloud that rose up to 11,000 feet above sea level, the National Weather Service said. Smaller explosions occurred overnight. Moderate winds were blowing to the southwest, and light ash was likely to fall downwind.

Earlier this week, eruptions sent ash plume 10,000 feet up in the air. More red and orange lava fountains emerged and lava reached the Pacific Ocean, presenting a new threat for residents.

The oozing lava has destroyed 82 structures on the Big Island, and another 37 structures have become inaccessible in the last days, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno.

About 2,200 acres have been covered in lava since the Kilauea volcano eruptions began May 3, Magno said.

The US Geological Survey said there were 90 earthquakes of multiple intensities at the volcano summit in about six hours Friday. Earthquakes continued at a moderate rate overnight.

'This is the Hawaiian way'

As lava bombs were fired in every direction, Darryl Clinton tried to keep homes on the Big Island from going up in flames.

Armed with little more than a garden house, he doused lava bombs as they bombarded his and his neighbors' homes, destroying windows, crashing through the roof and igniting parts of the houses.

"This is the Hawaiian way," his neighbor and close friend Steve Hill said. "You take care of each other."

Hill's family had packed up their furniture and valuables and left their property, convinced the lava erupting from fissures in the area would consume their slice of paradise.

The homes are still there, thanks to Clinton's efforts, he said.

"This place stands because Darryl chose not to go home," Hill said. "It stands because he believed he could save it, and that's it."

Last week, Hill had pleaded with Clinton to leave the homes and let them burn. The onslaught of molten lava bombs appeared unstoppable, and Clinton's task seemed far too dangerous.

Clinton didn't listen. The next day, he was standing on Hill's top deck when a lava bomb the size of a bowling ball flew through the air and hit Clinton with such force it snapped the bones in his leg.

"It just took my leg out and threw me against the wall, the most extreme force I've ever felt in my life," Clinton told CNN from his hospital bed in Hilo.

Clinton has had at least three surgeries and is in Honolulu for another. He will be off his feet for weeks, but he said he doesn't regret his choice to stay to protect the homes.

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