People evacuated by helicopter from neighborhood isolated by fast-moving lava

Lava crosses Kupono Street in Leilani Estates (1)-846655637

Emergency crews went in Friday evening to secure a neighborhood that has blocked off by lava.

Hawaii County Civil Defense says fast-moving lava from fissure 20 has crossed Pohoiki Road near Malama Ki Place. 

There are approximately 40 homes in the area that are isolated.

Four people were safely evacuated by county and National Guard helicopters. People still in the area are asked to stay where they are and wait for further instructions.

Residents from Isaac Hale Beach Park to Kalapana are advised to prepare for voluntary evacuation should Highway 137 become threatened.

Hawaii County officials say 22 fissures have opened in Leilani Estates since Thursday, May 3.

Click here for an interactive map.

After Thursday morning’s big explosion at Halemaumau Crater, the focus shifted back to Leilani Estates, with fissures 21 and 22 cracking open Thursday night and Friday morning.

“It is an upsurge in activity, yes, and it is concentrated in the downrift portion of this line of fissures,” said Jim Kauahikaua, USGS geophysicist.

Some older fissures have become active again.

Our crew saw fissure 17 shooting spatter into the air from the side of Pahoa-Kapoho Road. It’s been one of the most active and dynamic of Madame Pele’s fireworks.

“We are seeing more fluid lavas, pahoehoe-type behavior. Basically the most activity is on the northeast end of the fissure line, 17, 18,” Kauahikaua said. “The fissure 15 lava flow crossed Pohoiki (Road) this morning.”

Not only are new fissures opening up, but the cracks in the road are getting much bigger, and widening by the day.

It’s still a very volatile situation in Leilani Estates. Poles and lines continue to fall with the ground swelling and cracking.

Leilani Estates residents are still being allowed to go back to their homes during the daylight hours – that is, if their homes are even still accessible.

Lava from fissure 9 turned Kupono Street into a dead-end.

“People need to be reminded that one, the activity continues. This is far from being over,” said Talmadge Magno, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator.

We spoke with Darryl Oliveira, who was in charge of the county’s emergency response during the Pahoa lava flow four years ago.

“The difference between 2014 and this is how quickly this event unfolded with little lead time for residents, and it’s occurring right in their backyards, right in their property, versus in 2014,” Oliveira said. “We had some lead time where the origination from the flows, and how far away, and the speed at which it was moving, so the community could prepare and ramp up. With this, it’s happening instantaneously.”

The other thing that’s very different is the sulfur dioxide in the plumes and high levels of toxic fumes associated with this current eruption. Levels were so high that Lanipuna Gardens residents haven’t been allowed to go back home since the evacuations began two weeks ago.

“Different challenges, very unique issues, but again, the community is a very resilient, tough community, working together, and everyone pitching in and helping each other out,” Oliveira said.

So far the lava has consumed 40 structures, mostly homes, in Leilani Estates.

Despite the destruction thus far, there’s still a lot left standing in Leilani Estates. The lush greenery makes you understand why folks chose to live there, despite being on an active volcano.

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