Oct 27, 2014 05:00 AM EDT
Inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands owe their tropical homes to volcanic activity that gave rise to the US state thousands of years ago. But some fear that continued lava flows may soon engulf the homes they've built as a new volcanic eruption threats the rural population of the Big Island.
Beginning on June 27, the lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano, in the most rural region of Puna, has left a marked path of devastation in its wake and researchers say it's still going to get worse. Increasing in speed over the past few days, Sunday Oct. 27 researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey announced that the lava flow had advanced about 250 yards in the course of a day and had sped up to a flow rate of roughly 30 to 45 feet per hour.
Only half a mile from the main street of Pahoa, a small town in the rural area of Hawaii, local residents were placed on high alert as the flow passed through nearby farmland and covered a Buddhist cemetery early Sunday morning. Director of Civil Defense for Hawaii County, Darrly Oliveira, disclosed at a teleconference held early Sunday morning that while the nearest home was only 300 yards from the flow front, residents have been asked to prepare for evacuation before Tuesday morning, and he estimates that at least 50 structures, including homes and businesses in the area, will likely be affected.
After notifying residents nearby in a door-to-door evacuation notice, Oliveira disclosed that nearly all residents had preemptively identified places where they could go in case of evacuation, with less than a handful saying they may need to find a nearby shelter. And while being prepared for encroaching lava flow may seem odd to those on the mainland United States, this isn't Big Island residents' first struggle with a volcanic eruption. In fact, while the current flow only began in June of this past summer, Kilauea Volcano has been in a continuous state of eruption since 1983, moving towards local towns in fits for weeks on and months off. And it's a process that locals have come to fear.
Geologist and spokeswoman for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Janet Babb says that methane explosions have also been alarming residents in recent days. The subterranean travelling methane gas that arises from decomposing vegetation accumulates in pockets that can ignite. And the blasts felt Saturday afternoon were more than a bit disconcerting to locals in the area.
One passed nearby Babb and neighbors, and as she says, "At the time that it happened, it was such a rumble I thought it was thunder and that we were about to be struck by lightning.
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