Lava Flow Overtakes Pāhoa Japanese Cemetery

Oct 26, 2014

The June 27th flow front remains active and continues to advance towards the northeast. A portion of the front is still moving through the open field, while the leading tip of the flow has advanced through the Pāhoa Japanese Cemetery.
Credit USGS

Hawaii County Civil Defense are keeping a close watch on a lava flow that continues to move toward Pāhoa. It's picked up speed in recent days, moving at a speed of 10-15 yards per day. Officials say evacuations may be just days away. 

A small shed is consumed by lava in the pasture between the Pāhoa cemetery and Apaʻa Street.
Credit USGS

The flow continues to remain active and has moved 345 yards since Saturday morning. Civil Defense officials say the flow front has cut through Pāhoa Japanese Cemetery, burying some grave sites under what will become volcanic rock. Geologists at the USGS Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory say the flow front, which expanded to 150 yards wide, is now 0.5 miles from Pāhoa Village Road, the main road through town, and 0.9 miles from Highway 130. 

County officials have been going door-to-door notifying residents in the flow path that an evacuation notice has been issued and they should prepare to evacuate in the next three to five days. Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira says there are about 50 to 60 structures in the area that have been zoned for evacuation. He says after visiting residents at their homes, more than 95% will be relocating to alternative housing, such as staying with friends or family in neighboring towns. Less than a handful will be seeking out emergency shelters.

County officials warn the dangers stretch beyond the 2,000 degree heat of the molten rock. Smoke is also a concern. Oliveira says this could be fairly significant, depending on what starts to burn. County officials that have been visiting homes in the evacuation zones have also been checking properties for hazardous objects and materials, like abandoned vehicles. The lava consumes everything in its path, even sparking methane explosions as it comes across decomposing vegetation. And now that lava is close enough to the first houses that residents can see its glow at night.