Faith leaders on edge in Hawaii

Emergency officials say it may be weeks before the volcano threat is past

BY RICK JONES | PRESBYTERIAN NEWS SERVICE | May 11, 2018


Lava flow moves in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa on the island of Hawaii
Credit: USGS via AP - CC BY

The threat of more eruptions, explosions and lava continue to keep geologists on alert as they track activity at the summit of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) says lava draining from the volcano could pose serious problems and officials are keeping watch.

“Authorities are concerned that the lava may go underneath the water table, which could cause a huge explosion with boulders,” said Dana Pagalaboyd, with Hawaii VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). “They’re hoping that if it does explode, it will land within the park, away from people, but you can’t predict that.”

Pagalaboyd, who is also an administrator with Christ Church Uniting Disciples and Presbyterians, says the uncertainty has everyone on edge.

“It’s very stressful, not knowing from hour to hour what your situation is. I know there are some people that did not evacuate from their neighborhoods,” she said. “I heard one man say he knows people who are staying in their homes until they see lava in their yard.”

Pagalaboyd adds that they have no idea how long the threat could last.

“I heard an interview with a videographer who has been tracking the lava and is a resident in one of the impacted areas. He said it had only been nine days, yet it felt like nine weeks,” she said. “Every time he flies over, he checks out his house and it is safe for now. But 36 structures have been destroyed in the area so far.”

Authorities have warned impacted residents not to wait too long to get out.

“Under normal circumstances, it can take at least a day to move out of your house. Now, residents usually have about half an hour to get out,” Pagalaboyd said. “When they’ve been given the time to go back after evacuation, they still have little time to gather their personal belongings or pets that were left behind.”

Pagalaboyd says despite the evacuations, few residents are taking advantage of shelters that have opened.

“Many people are requesting tents. Officials have also noticed that hotels, bed & breakfasts are being booked by displaced residents,” she said. “Some people don’t like going to shelters, so many are camping outside.”

Pagalaboyd says they’ve been in touch with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance regarding long-term recovery.

“Right now, the community itself can handle the emergency,” she said. “But people will be looking for long-term home rentals they can use for months while their homes are being rebuilt from the damage.”

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been monitoring the situation in Hawaii and is in communication with Pagalaboyd.

“Our prayers and concerns for the residents and emergency workers continue in this ever-changing situation in the islands,” said Jim Kirk, PDA’s associate for national disaster response. “The ongoing threat of volcanic activity is of great concern to the church and we are prepared to provide resources and support when needed.”

The immediate threat is in a national park with a sparse population. The nearest community is approximately three miles from the summit.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is able to quickly respond to emergencies because of gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.


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Faith leaders on edge in Hawaii


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