LIVING WITH LAVA.
One Year After the Leilani Estate Lava Flow on Big Island, Hawaii.
On May 3rd 2018, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake rocked the SE region of Big Island in Hawai’i. Shortly after, Kilauea, the most active volcano in the Hawaiian chain then began spewing 300ft lava fountains out of the ground in the residential area of Leilani Estates.
Within days, over 2,000 residents were evacuated and some 700 homes were burnt and engulfed by the fast-flowing lava.
Within a couple of weeks, the lava had reached the sea line four miles away and over the next three months added another 870 acres to the overall size of Big Island as the lava cooled and created new land.
Many of the local Leilani inhabitants, whose houses were spared, have now returned to their homes though many roads remain blocked in this now vastly different vista. Those whose houses were destroyed by the lava were given FEMA aid but not enough to cover building a new home.
The original point where the lava erupted is known as ‘Fissure 8’. This once flat ground is now a 500ft high volcanic ash cone that sits amongst the still steaming landscape. Some of the homes that were buried now lie under hundreds of feet of lava and gone forever. Much of the surrounding area, that was spared by the lava flow, was subsequently burnt by the burning methane gas clouds that bellowed out of smaller fissures that opened as the eruption area increased.
While there, I spent time with Bruce N, a former Big Wave surfer and a man who has lived in the 2018 ‘lava zone’ of Leilani Estates for 37 years. He was evacuated in May 2018 after the area began burning and his brothers house disappeared under the lava. Bruce, a sculptor and a man of defiant individuality showed me around this apocalyptic landscape.