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More Than 2 Dozen Homes Destroyed In Hawaii After Volcano Eruption


Volcanic activity has temporarily subsided on Hawaii's Big Island. The latest eruption of the state's most active volcano has destroyed 26 homes and displaced an estimated 1,700 residents. Ku'uwehi Hiraishi of Hawaii Public Radio has more from the town of Puna.

KU'UWEHI HIRAISHI, BYLINE: The Hauani'o family has been living in the shadow of Kilauea volcano for generations. Kainoa Hauani'o remembers his grandfather's home being devoured by lava when he was just 10 years old. Twenty-seven years later, he has different family concerns.

KAINOA HAUANI'O: We just had a baby two weeks ago. We just finished paying our off our house, you know, in December. We don't have no more insurance. I have no idea what I'm doing tomorrow.

HIRAISHI: Hauani'o was at a checkpoint for residents evacuated from their homes in the residential community of Leilani Estates located on the eastern flank of the mountain. He left with thousands of others last Thursday when lava and toxic gases began spewing from fissures in the earth miles from the volcano's summit. Robert Johnson is another resident.

ROBERT JOHNSON: We got all our important papers and things like that, loaded up two cars. We were able to get a bedroom set out and table and chairs and of course my ukulele and golf clubs, the important things (laughing).

HIRAISHI: Johnson expected the evacuation to be temporary, so he abandoned his home in hopes that the lava would settle. He returned to check on his home two days later.

JOHNSON: When I got there, the lava had already come halfway down the street, and our house was above that. So I stayed there and said goodbye and gave a blessing and got a blessing and - for about an hour. And it was just me and the lava.

HIRAISHI: The eruption in Kilauea volcano's east rift zone comes after weeks of earthquakes and other warning signs. Families living near the volcano know its history.

KEONE KALAWE: My family went through the same dilemma in 1960 at the Kapoho village eruption.

HIRAISHI: That's Puna resident Keone Kalawe. The Kapoho eruption lasted weeks and destroyed two villages on the island. This time, Kalawe was one of the first to volunteer his support at nearby emergency shelters.

KALAWE: You know, the stories that my parents shared with us about - they had to move out of Kapoho because of the eruption.

HIRAISHI: Since 1983, Kilauea volcano has been erupting continuously. Kalawe echoes the sentiment of many residents with a reference to Pele, Hawaii's volcano goddess.

KALAWE: We need to accept that we're just here temporarily. Pele is here permanently.

HIRAISHI: For NPR News, I am Ku'uwehi Hiraishi in Puna. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ku'uwehi Hiraishi