Inside Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano evacuation zone

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Kilauea VolcanoThis May 19, 2018 aerial photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey shows lava fountains from Fissure 20 in Kilauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone in Pahoa, Hawaii. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Another day, another new danger for residents near Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. Lava is mixing with ocean water, creating a dangerous mix of hydrochloric acid and glass particles called “laze.”

This is in addition to Sulfur Dioxide gas, which was already threatening some who ignored evacuation orders. CGTN’s Phil Lavelle reports from the volcano’s frontline, where he gained access to a property in the evacuation zone.

Each plume of smoke is a sign of another eruption, or another property being claimed by nature. Residents are quickly leaving, taking whatever fits in their trucks.

Few are heading the opposite direction and into the red zone. Leilani is blocked off by police, with only residents allowed past the cordon.

Jason Green, one of those who has left, took us back in with him. Most have voluntarily left, turning the neighborhood into a ghost town. Only a handful of have stayed, worried of burglaries if they go.

“There’s been looting here, so we’ve put signs up in our windows,” Green explained.

US-VOLCANO-HAWAII

This US Geological Survey (USGS) image obtained May 20, 2018, shows channelized lava emerges on Kilauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone on May 19, 2018,on Hawaii’s Big Island. (AFP PHOTO / US Geological Survey)

He and his husband David only moved here from California six months ago, swapping the risk of earthquakes for the risk of earthquakes and eruptions.

They’ve had both so far. But their house is still standing, unlike many others who are less fortunate.

“I feel lucky that we’re not at risk of losing our home to the lava, but it’s definitely a harmful living condition,” Green said. “We are downwind from it, so we are getting all of the harmful Sulfur Dioxide gases.”

 Fissures have been opening up in multiple locations, releasing lava and steam. But it’s that Sulfur Dioxide which is the silent danger, and a real risk to health.

“I have dogs, and I can’t put a respirator on my dogs,” Green said, explaining why he and his husband have chosen to leave. “I don’t know what kind of long term exposure this is going to have on our bodies.”

Those residents who have decided to remain in their homes have been told to stay indoors. If they do go outside, then authorities say they should wear a mask. The issue, however, is that they work if for ash falling from the sky, but not the toxic fumes from the Sulfur Dioxide. The only protection is to leave and come back when authorities give the all clear.

And so Hawaii waits, trying to stay positive.

“There’s an aloha spirit here, and it makes you not want to leave. Makes you want to stay here.”

Some pray to the island’s God, leaving gifts and hoping the eruption will end. She’s not showing any signs of hearing them, however, or at least not yet.


DIGITAL EXTRA: New dangers from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano

CGTN’s Phil Lavelle gives us the sights and sounds of around Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, where new gases from the erupting lava may pose a threat to those nearby.