Lava Disaster On the Island of Hawai’i

The Kilauea Lava Disaster of 2018 brought devastation to many residents of Puna, the region south of Hilo, Hawai’i that includes the East Rift Zone of Kilauea Volcano. This is not the first time the region was graced with lava.  USGS topographical maps tell the story of the Puna lava outbreaks of 1955 and 1960.  Kilauea sent a steady stream of lava at various intervals to Kalapana and other areas on the eastern and southern regions of the volcano.  In 2014, a slow moving lava flow passed through a cemetery and stopped at the Pahoa recycling center.  There were eruptions that ran into the ocean between 2015 and 2017.  Then on May 4, 2018 a massive earthquake fostered a major eruption that continued until August, 2018.  The lava is still hot in some areas.

Residents were forced to evacuate under pressure of advancing lava by the end of May.  Many lost everything.  While County of Hawai’i Civil Defense monitoring was robust when the volcanic eruption captured worldwide media attention, County action on rebuilding and recovery could now be characterized as listless.

The county representatives began with a presentation about how they wanted the meeting to proceed. But the group would have none of that and in unison boomed out, “We want to know when will Route 132 be rebuilt! “
Many called out,  “What’s the county doing to work with the geothermal plant contractors already pushing through lava to their facility?” Again and again, people spoke out,  “When will we be able to get to our homes and farms?”
I had arrived early for the meeting and spoke with a representative of the County, learning that one of the goals for the evening was to “get people’s stories about the disaster.” This is part of an effort to reanimate news coverage and tourism after the lava flow that made countless people homeless and consumed acres of productive agricultural land, pastures and public recreational areas.
Individual stories, heartfelt examples of what the disaster has wrought on the community, families, individuals and institutions could be presented to state legislators, the county council or even the U.S. Congress to explain the extent of loss and begin to quantify needs to restore economic viability and human stability.
The greatest need from the perspective of people whose farms and homes were cut off from road access by the lava was repeated often: “We need the public roads repaired and replaced for access to our land and homes!”
The County participated in the talk story meeting with those profoundly disadvantaged by the lava inundation to ask affected residents about how visitors — tourists — could better understand the impact of the lava and show respect for local culture and Hawai’ian traditions of respect. The county is gathering thoughts from school-age youth and local residents to create a Pono ethics code for the Hawaii Tourism Authority to convey to tourism industry stake-holders and their customers.
By communicating to visitors the challenges faced by locals during and after the lava flow, officials anticipate that tourists will have a better understanding of local people’s priorities and possibly reduce potential conflicts due to lava viewing or lava tours for visitors that stray onto local family land. The County of Hawai’i website now provides facts for potential tourists to the island of Hawai’i (aka Big Island).
I was reminded by a Kama’aina friend today that Pono is not an elastic term or concept, but a specific Hawaiian word meaning ‘righteous.’ Is this righteous advice to tourists or an expression of the righteous behavior that Hawaiians expect of tourists?
How to finance repairs of the roads and how to best manage the influx of tourists in search of lava viewing thrills are the thorny questions for which no answers were offered during the meeting.

About patwa

Dedicated reader, writer, and traveler. Book reviewer https://WorldReader.wordpress.com France Travel https://FranceFootsteps.com Adventures in writing https://AdventureTravelWriter.org Pyrenees Pilgrimage is about walking across France alone through the Pyrenees Mountains. It is available in Kindle or print-on-demand. http://www.amazon.com/Pyrenees-Pilgrimage-Walking-Across-France/dp/1439267898
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