May 24, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

What’s the Worst Case Scenario? Hawaii’s Kilauea Lava Flow

Oct 29, 2014 01:44 AM EDT

As Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano threatens nearby towns with the destructive force of its lava flow, residents and analysts evaluate the potential casualties and worst case possibilities of this dangerous scenario. And with the lava flow reported to only be 70 yards away from the nearest home on Monday Oct. 27, researchers fear that the worst case scenario may have already begun.

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.

Threatened by the nearby lava flow, residents in the Hawaiian village of Pahoa have been asked to leave their homes in hopes of avoiding civilian casualties. And business owners are saying that the abandoned family homes, in spite of being near the encroaching lava flow, have become a hot-spot for criminal activity as looters are targeting the homes in the path of destruction.

"Crime is starting to pick up because a lot of people abandoned their houses" owner of the Tin Shack Bakery, Matt Purvis told reporters Monday morning. "Two of my brother-in-laws' houses got ripped off."

Purvis reports that thieves have been surveillancing the town during the day, and hitting local residences sometimes more than once.

But the risk of looters, researchers fear, is but the tip of the iceberg if the worst case scenario were to take place. As traffic has become snarled at the onset of visitors and onlookers coming to the town, crews of roadworkers have scrambled in hopes of building temporary access roads and protecting Highway 130, a major route into and out of Puna. Fearing the worst, but practically expecting every likely situation, researchers and local officials say that there is a possibility that the lava flow could escalate and if Highway 130 were to fail or become blocked, residents in the area may become "lava-locked" in a dangerous situation; a problem that officials would like to avoid at all costs.

Local clinics have ensured that mobile units will be available in the event of such situations, but local residents and business owners not forced to flee are also taking the situation into the highest consideration. It's a life-threatening situation that all locals would like to avoid.

"I'm just leaving a couple of all-terrain vehicles down on the side of my business, in case we're cut off" local business owner of Big Island Auto Rentals in Pahoa, Mike Hale said in an interview early Monday morning. "And if we are cut off, it will be a huge disaster."

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