Unlikely pair could usher ‘right to carry’ gun law case to U.S. Supreme Court

George Young holds a framed photo of his late daughter Tim Young in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S., July 30, 2018. Picture taken July 30, 2018. Courtesy Lynn Viale/Handout via REUTERS

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – George Young is a Vietnam War veteran who sued the state of Hawaii three times on his own without a lawyer for the right to carry a handgun and lost each time.

Alan Beck is an independent lawyer who took on Young’s appeal for free.

Last month, the duo won a major victory for gun rights when an appeals court found Hawaii’s restrictive handgun law unconstitutional, a ruling that could lead to a landmark decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the right to bear arms in public. And they did so without the help of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) gun lobby.

“I went around the state of Hawaii and contacted about 17 attorneys and all of them turned me down. They said I would only lose,” said Young, 68. “I want to see it through to the end, which is the U.S. Supreme Court.”

U.S gun-control advocates favor strict laws like Hawaii’s, blaming lax gun laws for excessive gun violence and deadly mass shootings in the United States. The NRA and other gun-rights advocates oppose laws that restrict the constitutional right to bear arms and want the high court to take up a new case, hoping it will expand gun rights outside the home.

The Supreme Court has not taken on a major gun-rights case since a pair of cases in 2008 and 2010 in which the court established that the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep a gun at home.

Hawaii allows only people who work in security or who can demonstrate to law enforcement officials that they have an “exceptional case” to carry weapons, concealed or openly.

After he left the Army, Young carried a firearm for 17 years as an airport security guard but lost that right after he retired. He failed to convince the County of Hawaii’s police chief he deserved a permit, so he sued, saying his constitutional right to bear arms was violated.

He filed suits in 2008, 2010 and 2012 to challenge the denials, losing each time.

Lacking the means to hire a lawyer for an appeal, Young would normally have had to depend on a star litigator financed by the NRA or a major law firm to take the case pro bono, or free of cost.

Instead Young paired up with Beck, a solo practitioner who learned of Young’s story and offered to represent him for free.

Beck said he has limited means of his own and that his father has offered to lend him money if needed to keep the case going.

“This covers my pro bono hours for my career. It’s worth it. Sometimes you have to do the right thing,” Beck said.

NO NRA HELP

Based in California but with family ties in Hawaii, Beck said he took Young’s case because he disagreed with the ruling by the U.S. District Court and said Young was denied the leeway that should be afforded to a non-lawyer representing himself.

“I didn’t think he got a fair shake,” Beck said. “We got to know each other very well. I know his family now. I consider him a good friend as well as a client.”

The NRA turned down a request to help with the case, Beck said, declining to elaborate. The NRA was still involved in assisting another lawsuit challenging carry laws when Young filed his suit, which is why the association did not get involved, spokeswoman Amy Hunter said.

On July 24, Young scored his first victory. In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the normally liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Young has a Second Amendment right to carry a firearm in public. The NRA applauded the ruling.

Hawaii has until Sept. 14 to ask the case to be reheard by the same panel or “en banc” by a larger number of judges.

The state has defended its law by citing the 2008 and 2010 Supreme Court cases, District of Colombia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. While those rulings were taken as a victory by gun-rights advocates, proponents of gun control say the court also established limits to the Second Amendment.

“Heller was not intended to extend the protections found in the Second Amendment to any area outside the home,” Hawaii said in a 2013 filing in the case.

‘CIRCUIT SPLIT’Some U.S. appeals courts have upheld state laws that greatly restrict gun carry rights while others have struck them down, creating what is known as “circuit split.” The Supreme Court often hears cases in order to resolve such splits, but it requires four out of nine Supreme Court justices to agree to hear a case.

“As a practical matter, there is indeed a circuit split,” said Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor.

George Young and his late daughter Tim Young in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S., in May 2006. Picture taken in May 2006. Courtesy George M. Young/Handout via REUTERS

George Young and his late daughter Tim Young in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S., in May 2006. Picture was taken in May 2006. Courtesy George M. Young/Handout via REUTERS

Young, who is part native Hawaiian and part descendant of Japanese plantation workers, became passionate about the issue while teaching his late daughter Tim, who died in a car accident in 2004 at age 21, about the Constitution.

“She was my pet. Of my three children she was the one to follow me everywhere,” Young said.

One day, as they discussed the Constitution, Young was startled when she told him he could not carry a handgun in Hawaii, so he began his quest.

“I made the promise that they cannot take your Second Amendment away,” Young said. “So to prove it to her, that’s when I started.”

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Dina Kyriakidou and Frances Kerry)

Hawaii eruption could last years, destroy new areas: geologists

FILE PHOTO: Lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester/File Photo

(Reuters) – The eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano could last for months or years and threaten new communities on the Big Island, according to a report by U.S. government geologists.

A main risk is a possible change in the direction of a lava flow that would destroy more residential areas after at least 712 homes were torched and thousands of residents forced to evacuate since Kilauea began erupting on May 3, the report by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

A higher volume of molten rock is flowing underground from Kilauea’s summit lava reservoir than in previous eruptions, with supply to a single giant crack — fissure 8 — showing no sign of waning, according to the study published last week.

“If the ongoing eruption maintains its current style of activity at a high eruption rate, then it may take months to a year or two to wind down,” said the report designed to help authorities on the Big Island deal with potential risks from the volcano.

Lava is bursting from same area about 25 miles (40 km) down Kilauea’s eastern side as it did in eruptions of 1840, 1955 and 1960, the report said. The longest of those eruptions was in 1955. It lasted 88 days, separated by pauses in activity.

The current eruption could become the longest in the volcano’s recorded history, it added.

Geologists believe previous eruptions may have stopped as underground lava pressure dropped due to multiple fissures opening up in this Lower East Rift Zone, the report said.

The current eruption has coalesced around a single fissure, allowing lava pressure to remain high.

A 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) lava river now flows to the ocean from this “source cone” through an elevated channel about 52 to 72 feet (16 to 22 meters) above ground.

“The main hazard from the source cone and the channel system is a failure of the cone or channel walls, or blockage of the channel where it divides in narrower braids. Either could divert most, if not all, of the lava to a new course depending on where the breach occurs,” the report said.

The report said it only considered risks from a change in lava flow direction to communities to the north of the channel as residents there have not been evacuated, whereas residents to the south have already left their homes.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Lava tours stir mixed feelings around erupting Kilauea

FILE PHOTO: Lava destroys homes in the Kapoho area, east of Pahoa, during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester/File Photo

By Jolyn Rosa

HONOLULU(Reuters) – Shane Turpin has for years taken tourists on boat rides to see lava oozing lazily down Kilauea’s slopes and into the Pacific Ocean several miles away.

But when the river of molten rock burned down his and his neighbors’ houses after the volcano erupted in May, he briefly stopped the tours.

“When the houses on the coastline were burning, we took those ships off,” said Turpin, 39, who runs Lava Ocean Tours out of Hilo. “Those were my neighbors, I actually lived there.”

But like many on the island trying to rebuild a life amid the destruction, he went back to work, catering to increased demand from tourists eager to witness the latest eruption of one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

“Life always provides different opportunities; you either accept things and go forward with them or you don’t,” he said.

Kilauea has shown no signs of quieting since it first began erupting on May 3. Lava spewing from “Fissure 8” has wiped out scores of homes in Kapoho by the Pacific. Scenic Kapoho Bay, a stop along Turpin’s tours, is now filled with lava.

And, after a short respite, “lava tourism” is booming on the Big Island, with helicopter and boat tour operators trying to please tourists and show respect for thousands of locals who have lost homes or been evacuated.

LAVA TOUR BOOM

Lava tourism has long existed on Hawaii’s Big Island. Visitor numbers spike each time Kilauea, which has erupted almost continuously since 1983, sends a tongue of lava toward the ocean. The current eruption is one of the longest and most intense on record.

Visitor arrivals to the Big Island fell by 1.6 percent in May year-on-year after the eruption, after several cruise ships canceled port calls at Hilo and Kona, the island’s two main cities, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said. Yet tourist spending actually increased by 3.3 percent to $173.9 million in May.

Figures for June have not yet been released.

Boat tours cost around $220 per person, with at least two other outfits competing with Turpin. Half a dozen companies also offer helicopter tours starting at around $300 per seat.

Residents have mixed feelings about noisy tour helicopters that fly over traumatized communities like Leilani Estates and Kapoho Vacationland, which lost hundreds of homes.

“They have helicopters starting as early as six in the morning and they go all day,” said Rob Guzman, 47, an evacuee and guesthouse operator, who recently returned to his Kalapana home after an access road was reopened.

“At the same time, it’s putting more money into the local economy when we’ve been hit very hard,” he added.

Tourists on helicopter tours will see a 180-foot (55-meter) tall lava geyser, an eight-mile 8 miles (13-km) river of molten rock from fissure 8 cascading toward the sea, and a newly made volcanic wasteland pockmarked with the remains of over 650 homes.

It was something Seattle tourist Steve Gaffin could not resist.

“I feel sorry for all the people who’ve lost their homes,” said Gaffin, who planned to see the eruption on a visit to the island with his wife. But he added, “Why would you want to miss this? This is exciting!”

People can only witness the lava from the air or the sea. All lava flow hiking tours have been stopped, and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where Kilauea is located, is closed to visitors. Over 80 people, some of them locals, have been cited for loitering in lava zones and face penalties of up to $5,000 and a one-year jail sentence.

That leaves some evacuees, displaced and unable to the pay the cost of tours, unable to view the spectacle of lava flows that destroyed their homes or forced them to flee. They are allowed to inspect their homes at regular intervals with a civil defense escort.

“Seeing the lava is a right and part of processing the disaster,” said Hazen Komraus, head of a community association in the Kalapana area, who like many locals wants to see a ground viewing area established.

With this in mind, one helicopter tour company said it was giving any empty seats free of charge to evacuees to join the sightseeing tours and is offering them discounts if they want to hire a helicopter to survey their properties from the air.

“We’ve flown several dozen residents so far and have dozens more on the list,” said Paradise Helicopters Chief Executive Cal Dorn, adding that he also donates up to $20 per seat on tourist flights toward evacuee relief efforts.

(Reporting by Jolyn Rosa; additional reporting by Terray Sylvester and Suzanne Barlyn in Pahoa; additional reporting and writing by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; editing by Bill Tarrant and Jonathan Oatis)

Minor explosion at Hawaii volcano spews more ash into the air

FILE PHOTO: Journalists and National Guard soldiers watch as lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

(Reuters) – Another small explosion at the summit of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano shot more ash high into the atmosphere, putting communities in the southern part of the Big Island at risk, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The volcano, which has been erupting since early May, has sent occasional columns of ash and volcanic gas into the atmosphere at between 10,000 (3,050 meters) and 30,000 feet (9,145 meters) above sea level, it said.

On Sunday, another explosion spewed ash from the volcano, creating a driving hazard for roads on parts of the Big Island.

A fissure in the volcano spewed molten rock 160 feet (49 meters) on Tuesday, slightly lower than the 180 feet (55 meters) it reached from Saturday night into Sunday, pushing a steady flow of lava into the ocean, the USGS said.

A representative for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The eruption, which entered its 40th day on Tuesday, stands as the most destructive in the United States since at least the violent 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state that reduced hundreds of square miles to wasteland and killed nearly 60 people, according to geologist Scott Rowland, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The Hawaii eruption has caused no casualties, but lava flows have swallowed about 600 homes since May 3, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said last week.

Vacationland, a private development believed to comprise about 160 homes, was completely erased, and at least 330 houses were devoured by lava at Kapoho Beach Lots, Kim said.

On Saturday, hundreds of construction workers and volunteers, including officials from the Hawaii National Guard and the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, began building 20 temporary housing units in Pahoa for families forced from their homes.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Rivers of lava destroy 600 homes on Hawaii’s Big Island: mayor

Lava destroys homes in the Kapoho area, east of Pahoa, during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Terray Sylvester

PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) – Approximately 600 homes have been swallowed by lava flows from Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island since early last month, marking its most destructive eruption in modern times, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said on Thursday.

The latest estimate of property losses from Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, far surpasses the 215 structures consumed by lava during an earlier eruption cycle that began in 1983 and continued nearly nonstop over three decades.

Kim said Kilauea, one of five volcanoes on the Big Island, formally known as the Island of Hawaii, has never destroyed so many homes before in such a short period of time.

The latest volcanic eruption, which entered its 36th day on Thursday, stands as the most destructive in the United States since at least the cataclysmic 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state that reduced hundreds of square miles to wasteland, according to geologist Scott Rowland, a volcano specialist from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

A similar, extremely violent eruption from Fuego volcano in Guatemala this week killed more than 100 people as it ejected deadly super-heated “pyroclastic” flows of lava and ash through nearby towns.

The latest damage appraisal from Kilauea came moments after Governor David Ige, on a visit to Hawaii County Civil Defense headquarters in Hilo, the island’s biggest city, signed a memorandum of understanding furnishing $12 million in immediate state disaster relief to the island.

Ige and Kim also announced formation of a task force of federal, state and local officials to devise a recovery plan for communities devastated by the eruption, with an eye toward preventing such major property losses in the future.

“Our responsibility is to try to work with the community to rebuild out of harm’s way,” Kim said.

County civil defense officials had a day earlier put the confirmed number of homes destroyed during the past month at 130, all of them in and around the Leilani Estates community, where lava-spouting fissures opened up on the volcano’s eastern flank on May 3.

Lava flows across a highway on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Lava flows across a highway on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

More recently a huge river of lava that has crept several miles across the landscape to the eastern tip of the island engulfed two entire seaside housing subdivisions – Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland.

Over the course of about three days, a rolling wall of molten rock measuring half-mile across and 10- to 15-feet tall buried hundreds of homes, while vaporizing a small freshwater lake and filling in an inlet called Kapoho Bay, extending about a mile out from what had been the shoreline.

Kim said Vacationland, a private development believed to comprise roughly 160 homes, was completely erased, and that at least 330 houses were devoured by lava at Kapoho Beach Lots. The rest were

The rest of the losses have occurred in the Leilani Estates area, where the toll of destruction has been steadily rising by the day.

“So if you combine the three of them (Kapoho, Vacationland and Leilani), we’re talking about 600 homes,” he told reporters. “I’m talking about 600 families. Don’t forget the farmers, don’t forget the ranchers, don’t forget all the employees for them.”

An estimated 2,500 people have been displaced by evacuations across the island since the eruption began five weeks ago, spouting fountains of lava and high concentrations of toxic sulfur dioxide gas through about two dozen volcanic fissures at the foot of the volcano.

Plumes of volcanic ash belched into the air by periodic daily explosions from the crater at Kilauea’s summit have posed an additional nuisance and health hazard to nearby communities.

So too have airborne volcanic glass fibers, called “Pele’s Hair,” wispy strands carried aloft by the wind from lava fountains and named for the volcanic goddess of Hawaiian myth.

Seaside residents and boaters also have been warned to avoid noxious clouds of laze – a term derived from the words “lava” and “haze” – formed when lava reacts with seawater to form a mix of acid fumes, steam and glass-like particles when it flows into the ocean.

Frequent earthquakes, mostly of relatively small magnitude but numbering in the thousands, have persisted throughout the eruption, adding to the jitters of residents living closest to the volcano.

In addition to destroying homes and other structures, lava flows have knocked out telephone and power lines, causing widespread communication outages, and forced the shutdown of a geothermal energy plant that normally provides about a quarter of the island’s electricity.

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester in Pahoa; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler, Paul Tait and Michael Perry)

Scores more homes destroyed by lava flow on Hawaii’s Big Island

Lava destroys homes in the Kapoho area, east of Pahoa, during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Terray Sylvester

PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) – A growing river of molten rock flowing from a fissure at the foot of Kilauea Volcano is believed to have demolished scores of additional homes and filled in a small bay at the eastern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island, civil defense officials said on Tuesday.

Lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester T

Lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester T

The latest estimates – up to 80 more structures than previously counted as destroyed by lava smothering two newly evacuated subdivisions – could bring the total number of homes and other buildings lost over the past month to nearly 200.

Such a tally would put property losses from the current upheaval of Kilauea, which entered its 34th day on Tuesday, on par with the 215 structures destroyed by lava during all 35 years of the volcano’s last eruption cycle, which began in 1983.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense agency was putting the confirmed number of buildings lost to the current eruption at 117 on Monday, mostly residential properties. About 80 of those were destroyed in the Leilani Estates community, where lava-spouting fissures in the ground first opened on May 3 downhill from the volcano’s eastern flank.

Another three-dozen homes were confirmed destroyed at the weekend when a large lava stream creeping 6 miles (10 km) across the landscape reached the far eastern edge of the Big Island, pouring into the ocean at Kapoho Bay.

A civil defense official told Reuters on Tuesday at least 60 to 80 more homes were believed to have been devoured as the lava flow, measuring about half a mile wide and 10 to 15 feet (3-4.6 meters) tall, inundated the adjacent subdivisions of Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland.

The official said aerial surveillance of the area showed only the northern portion of Kapoho Beach and the southernmost “sliver” of Vacationland – the latter consisting of only about half a dozen homes – were left unscathed.

Civil defense spokeswoman Janet Snyder said later county tax records show the two subdivisions consist of 279 homes combined and that “many of those 279 homes are feared destroyed.” She said it would be some time before precise losses were confirmed.

Lava flows on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Lava flows on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

LAVA FILLS IN BAY

Video footage from a helicopter showed two seaside homes engulfed in flames as clouds of white steam and hydrochloric acid fumes billowed from the water, where red-hot lava was pouring into the ocean.

Civil defense officials said Kapoho Bay itself had been filled in with lava that extended seven-tenths of a mile from what had been the shoreline.

“What used to be the bay is now all lava bed, new land, almost a mile out into the ocean,” the civil defense spokesman said.

Authorities began evacuating the greater Kapoho area last week and ushered most of the last remaining residents to safety early on Saturday, hours before the lava flow severed all road access to the region. Several holdouts were airlifted by helicopter on Sunday, leaving no more than a handful of people who refused to leave, officials said.

Barbara McDaniel, a retiree who moved with her husband to Vacationland from Washington state five years ago, said they fled as soon as evacuations began, taking little else but their dog and cat with them.

They worried their house would be spared by the lava but rendered inaccessible, leaving them stuck with the mortgage for an abandoned home and a fire insurance policy that was of no value, she told Reuters.

“Right now, I’m hoping that it burns down,” she said. “If lava takes it, we’re covered.”

(Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler and Paul Tait)

Three people trapped by lava airlifted to safety near Hawaii volcano

Darryl Sumiki, 52, of Hilo, watches as lava lights up the sky above Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 2, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Terray Sylvester

PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) – Three people were airlifted to safety on Sunday morning as lava from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano threatened an isolated area where they had become trapped, the National Guard said.

The two men and a woman became the latest in a series of evacuations on Hawaii’s Big Island forced by the volcano, which has been erupting since May 3.

Lava erupts behind a home in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Lava erupts behind a home in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

On Saturday, National Guard troops, police and firefighters ushered evacuees from homes on the eastern tip of the island, hours before lava cut off road access to the area, officials said.

A stream of lava as wide as three football fields flowed over a highway near a junction at Kapoho, a seaside community rebuilt after a destructive eruption of Kilauea in 1960.

About a dozen people remain in the area, but it is not clear whether they are in neighborhoods that are immediately threatened by lava, officials said.

The lava flow left Kapoho and the adjacent development of Vacationland cut off from the rest of the island by road, according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense agency.

Lava also destroyed a freshwater lake, boiling away all of the water in it, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported late on Saturday.

Sgt. Gavin Ching (R) of the Hawaii National Guard monitors sulfur dioxide gas levels in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Sgt. Gavin Ching (R) of the Hawaii National Guard monitors sulfur dioxide gas levels in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Authorities since Wednesday had been urging residents of the area to leave before lava spewing from a volcanic fissure at the eastern foot of Kilauea reached the area.

The final phase of the evacuation was carried out late on Friday and early on Saturday by fire and police department personnel, with help from the Hawaii National Guard and public works teams, county civil defense spokeswoman Janet Snyder told Reuters by email.

An estimated 500 people live in the Kapoho area, but Snyder said it was not immediately clear how many residents, if any, had chosen to stay behind.

Lava covers a road in Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Lava covers a road in Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Another 2,000 people have already been evacuated from Leilani Estates, an area further west where dozens of homes have been devoured or cut off by rivers of lava streaming over the landscape since May 3.

For those whose homes have been unscathed, the prolonged strain of uncertainty has grown increasingly difficult.

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester; Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Mandatory evacuation ordered as Hawaii eruption hits four-week mark

As volcanic fissures spurts molten rock into the air, lava slowly approaches a home on Nohea Street in the Leilani Estates near Pahoa, May 27, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garcia

By Jolyn Rosa

HONOLULU (Reuters) – The Hawaii community hardest hit by the Kilauea Volcano was ordered sealed off under a strict new mandatory evacuation on Thursday as the eruption marked its fourth week with no end in sight.

The Big Island’s mayor, Harry Kim, declared a roughly 17-block swath of the lava-stricken Leilani Estates subdivision off-limits indefinitely and gave any residents remaining there 24 hours to leave or face possible arrest.

The mandatory evacuation zone lies within a slightly larger area that was already under a voluntary evacuation and curfew.

The latest order was announced a day after police arrested a 62-year-old Leilani Estates resident who fired a handgun over the head of a younger man from the same community, apparently believing his neighbor was an intruder or looter.

The confrontation on Tuesday was recorded on cell phone video that later went viral.

But the mandatory evacuation was “decided prior to that incident,” said David Mace, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency currently assigned to the Hawaii County Civil Defense authority.

Civil defense officials have previously said about 2,000 residents in and around Leilani Estates were displaced at the outset of the current eruption, which began on May 3.

But the total number of evacuees was estimated to have risen to about 2,500 after authorities ushered residents from the nearby Kapoho area as a precaution on Wednesday, as a lava flow threatened to cut off a key access road.

At least 75 homes — most of them in Leilani Estates — have been devoured by streams of red-hot molten rock creeping from about two dozen large volcanic vents, or fissures, that have opened in the ground since Kilauea rumbled back to life four weeks ago. Lava flows also have knocked out power and telephone lines in the region, disrupting communications.

Besides spouting fountains of lava around the clock, the fissures have released high levels of toxic sulfur dioxide gas on a near constant basis, posing an ongoing health hazard. Meanwhile, the main summit crater has periodically erupted in clouds of volcanic ash that create breathing difficulties and other problems for residents living downwind.

The heightened volcanic activity has been accompanied by frequent earthquakes, as magma — the term for lava before it reaches the surface — pushes its way up from deep inside the earth and exerts tremendous force underground.

After a month of continual eruptions at Kilauea’s summit and along its eastern flank, geologists say they have no idea how much longer it will last.

“There’s no sign we’re getting that anything is going to slow down at the moment,” Wendy STOVL, a vulcanologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, told reporters on a conference call on Thursday. “We don’t see any changes occurring.”

An aerial view of Kilauea Volcano's summit caldera and an ash plume billowing from Halema'uma'u, a crater within the caldera, May 27, 2018. Courtesy of the Civil Air Patrol/USGS/Handout via REUTERS

An aerial view of Kilauea Volcano’s summit caldera and an ash plume billowing from Halema’uma’u, a crater within the caldera, May 27, 2018. Courtesy of the Civil Air Patrol/USGS/Handout via REUTERS

The island’s mayor on Wednesday renewed an emergency proclamation for 60 more days, allowing construction of temporary shelters and other relief projects to proceed on an expedited basis, without reviews and permits normally required.

The month-old eruption of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, followed an eruption cycle that had continued almost nonstop for 35 years.

Stovall said geologists now believe the latest upheaval should be classified as a separate volcanic event, though an official determination has yet to be made.

(Reporting by Jolyn Rosa; Additonal reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Fast lava from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano closes highway

Lava from the Kilauea volcano shoots into the air from a fissure near Luana Street, in the Leilani Estates near Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garcia

By Jolyn Rosa

HONOLULU (Reuters) – Fast-moving lava from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano forced officials to close part of a highway on Tuesday, and they warned that sharp, thin strands of volcanic glass fibers carried by the wind could injure eyes and lungs.

As lava crossed Highway 132, officials shut a stretch of road from Lava Tree State Park to Four Corners and told residents who had not evacuated to leave the area immediately.

The lava flow destroyed a farm where Kevin Hopkins and partners raise tropical fish and the ornamental carp known as koi. “It just came over and ate the farm, boiled the water out of the ponds,” Hopkins said.

Earlier on Tuesday, a small explosion of ash erupted from the summit of the volcano in a vertical plume some 15,000 feet (4,600 meters) high, the U.S. Geological Survey said, the latest outburst in a month of volcanic activity.

The agency warned that ash was drifting northwest and liable to affect anyone in the summit area. Hundreds of people have been ordered to leave the vicinity of one of the world’s most active volcanoes in its biggest eruption cycle in a century.

Lava covers Pohoiki Road near Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garcia

Lava covers Pohoiki Road near Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garcia

Kilauea entered its fourth week of what may be an unprecedented, simultaneous eruption at its summit crater and along a six-mile (9.7-km) string of fissures 25 miles (40 km) down its east flank.

Lava flows from multiple fissures have blocked roads and damaged dozens of buildings on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Lava has also destroyed more than 400 electric poles and other equipment, causing power outages, the utility Hawaii Electric Light reported. It is unclear how many homes and businesses were without power.

One fountain of lava rose more than 200 feet (60 meters) at times on Monday, the Geological Survey said.

Officials are on high alert for occasional earthquakes, though most have been small.

Lava has engulfed the heads of two wells that tap into steam and gas deep into the Earth at the 38-megawatt Puna Geothermal Venture electrical plant, which used to produce a quarter of the Big Island’s electricity. Its operator, Israeli-controlled Ormat Technologies Inc, said it had not been able to assess the damage.

So far no deaths have been blamed on the eruption, though a man’s leg was shattered when he was hit by a plate-size chunk of lava rock.

Residents fear the electrical plant’s deep geothermal wells may be explosive. Officials have said the power plant is safe but lava has never engulfed a geothermal plant anywhere in the world, creating a measure of uncertainty.

Contingency plans have been made for a possible helicopter evacuation of up to 1,000 residents in a coastal area south of the fissures should their last exit route, State Highway 130, become blocked by lava or become unsafe due to gaping cracks, County of Hawaii officials said.

At least 82 homes have been destroyed in the southeastern corner of Big Island and about 2,000 people have been ordered evacuated since Kilauea began erupting on May 3.

(Reporting by Jolyn Rosa and Marco Garcia; Writing and additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sandra Maler and Darren Schuettler)

Vertical plume of ash explodes from Hawaii volcano, hundreds ordered to leave vicinity

Volcanic gases rise from the Kilauea lava flow that crossed Pohoiki Road near Highway 132, near Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 28, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garc

HONOLULU (Reuters) – A small explosion of ash erupted from the summit of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano early on Tuesday morning in a vertical plume some 15,000 feet (4,600 meters) high, the U.S. Geological Survey said, the latest outburst in a month of volcanic activity.

The agency warned that ash was drifting northwest and liable to dust anyone in the summit area. Hundreds of people have been ordered to leave the vicinity of the biggest eruption cycle in a century of one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

A news reporter takes pictures of the Kilauea lava flow that crossed Pohoiki Road near Highway 132, near Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 28, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garcia

A news reporter takes pictures of the Kilauea lava flow that crossed Pohoiki Road near Highway 132, near Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 28, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garcia

Multiple fissures continue to spew up hot lava flows, which have blocked roads and damaged dozens of buildings on Hawaii’s Big Island.

One fountain of lava rose more than 200 feet (60 meters) at times on Monday, the Geological Survey said.

Officials are on high alert for occasional earthquakes, though none have been big enough so far to trigger a tsunami.

Lava has engulfed the heads of two wells that tap into steam and gas deep in the Earth’s core at the 38-megawatt Puna Geothermal Venture. Its operator, Israeli-controlled Ormat Technologies Inc, said it had not been able to assess the damag

So far no deaths have been blamed on the eruption, though a man’s leg was shattered when he was hit by a spatter of super-dense lava.

Residents fear the wells may be explosive. Officials have said the power plant is safe but lava has never engulfed a geothermal plant anywhere in the world, creating a measure of uncertainty.

Contingency plans have been made for a possible helicopter evacuation of up to 1,000 residents in a coastal area south of the fissures should their last exit route, be blocked by lava or become unsafe due to gaping cracks, County of Hawaii officials said.

At least 82 homes have been destroyed in the southeastern corner of Big Island and about 2,000 people have been ordered evacuated since Kilauea began erupting on May 3.

(Reporting by Jolyn Rosa; writing and additional reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)