Lava flow from spewing fissure threatens key escape route for remaining residents on Hawaii's Big Island

Authorities warn people who stay behind that if they get trapped and call for help, emergency personnel may not respond and they may be liable for rescue costs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 1:28am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 1:28am

Authorities on Hawaii’s Big Island warn that a new eruption of molten rock from a 220-foot (67-metre) high fountain of lava is channelling its way within a quarter-mile (400 metres) of a key escape-route intersection on the most threatened part of the island.

The Big Island, also known as the island of Hawaii, is about 200 miles (321km) southeast of Oahu, where the capital, Honolulu is located.

Hawaiian street wiped out by tide of lava after Kilauea volcano erupts

The US Geological Survey reported late Friday that the molten rock was approaching the intersection of highways 132 and 137 in an area known as Four Corners on the southeast corner of the island.

The lava, which the USGS said has covered a of 5.5 square mile area, has burned at least 400 power poles, cutting power to most of the area, according to Hawaii Electric Light Co.

Hawaii Civil Defense spokesman Talmadge Mango said Friday that at least 87 buildings have been destroyed since the Kilauea volcano erupted May 3.

As the threat of lava blocking planned the two highway escape routes, contractors have been bulldozing an alternative escape route through the adjacent Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Volcanic fibres, known as Pele’s hair, and other lightweight volcanic glass were reported to be gathering in the Leilani Estates, the hardest hit community.

Lava gushes into sea as Hawaii volcano eruption causes first serious injury

“Volcanic gas emissions remain very high from the fissure eruptions,” the USGS said. “Trade wind conditions are bringing vog (volcanic smog) to the south and west sides of the Island of Hawaii.”

A new round of mandatory evacuations in Leilani Estates, where at least 40 homes have been destroyed went into effect Friday as authorities warned that any residents who stay behind could be held liable for rescue costs if they get trapped and call for help.

“Persons remaining in the mandatory evacuation area … do so at their own risk with the knowledge that emergency responders may not respond,” Mayor Harry Kim has warned. “Persons in violation of this order are subject to arrest and will be liable for any costs associated with rescue operations in the mandatory evacuation area. Refusing to evacuate may put you, your family and first responders in danger.”