Conditions not much better away from home for Hawaii evacuees
Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes during the ongoing Kilauea volcano eruption. Sunday night, another large lava flow took out another 20 to 40 homes and also threatens the Puna Geothermal Venture Plant, covering a well. Hawaii County Civil Defense on Sunday issued an emergency alert calling for immediate evacuations of sections of the Leilani Estates community.
"I couldn't live there because I have two 19-year-old girls," Hawaii native Stacy Welch said. "It's just not safe for them. They won't let me go in the area at night but they will let me go back during the day. It is so dangerous."
Kim Larson, from Seward, Alaska, has a home just a few houses down from Stacy in the Leilani Estates area and currently is on the other end of the island, away from her home and the flow of lava.
"It has been brutal last couple of days," Larson said. "I actually am on the other side of the island as it's the only place that has a hotel that take dogs. My old dog has quit walking on back legs. Hope to somehow get back to Pahoa as that is ground zero for info."
Dane DuPont who splits his time between Reno, Nevada and Hawaii, has lived on the island for 13 years. His home is in Leilani Estates and like Stacy and Kim, his house is still standing. He says he chose to stay in Nevada and monitor things from there because of the lack of places to stay. The same can't be said for his family and friends.
"It's pretty crazy right now," DuPont said. "The lava is one street away from my house. All my friends are packed up, my parents lost their place out there, they lost two houses in the flow. Everybody is displaced and you kind of get in the way at some point."
Conditions at nearby shelters are less than adequate as well.
"Struggling," DuPont said. "That's about the best way to put it. Everything is day to day, hour to hour."
"I have a roof over my head and running water," Kim Larson said. "No fridge, no stove, nothing like that."
"We can't stay in our home," Welch said. "We evacuated on May 3rd or 4th and been here ever since. We are in the Pahoa Recreation Center and shelter life is definitely challenging. We have these bands on our wrists, we get a new one every week so they can keep track of who is here and who's not. It's really crazy."
People disbursed from their homes and not able to stay inside live in tent communities outside. Some of those people are elderly, handicapped and children.
"They're handing out all this food but no can openers or stoves to cook it on," April, a member of the tent village said. "Plus other things people don't think of. If it ain't raining it's windy. You're fighting constantly the elements, the quality of air and things leaking. Some people don't get back here in time to eat. Some have lost their jobs and now have no income. We also need cots to get people off the ground."
The Red Cross and Salvation Army among others are doing the best they can to help and serve. Donations to help can be made here.
Organizations also have to be strict because of the looming threat of looting.
"Living conditions can be improved dramatically," DuPont said. "You have people living in a high school parking lot now because they are homeless because their home has been taken. They are such in limbo with no plan from the Government. This discrepancy between the civil defense numbers and mine are keeping FEMA from stepping in."
DuPont, along with friends and some local residents, started a map to update daily, the homes destroyed by the lava flows in Leilani Estates and the surrounding area. Each red dot represents a home lost.
"The lava flow that happened Sunday night claimed somewhere to 20 to 40 homes," DuPont said. "The last civil defense number for homes destroyed was 82, my count is 183. I know why the numbers are so far off. Like where am I wrong, what I can I do to get your numbers right. Let's close the gap between the numbers. I'm pretty confident on my numbers and I know they are not perfect. It's really hard to be perfect right now. I only count homes lost and even if I'm say, 80 percent accurate, that's still double the number of homes lost that civil defense is telling people."
"We need heavy duty tarps and tents like circus tents," Welch said. "Because what's happening here is the Pahoa rain is collapsing all of our home depot tents and we need warm blankets, socks, clothes. I mean, I go to the donation table every day just to find something to wear. When I go into the field I know I am going to get them dirty so sometimes I just wear them for a couple days. It's really hard to get a shower. We have plenty of food but we're going to need money. Our GoFundMe accounts aren't moving at all. We're going to need money in the long term."
Questions or comments about this story? Email reporter Scott Gross.
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