Lava flow from the Kilaeua volcano has destroyed approximately 600 homes on the Big Island, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said on Thursday.
Lava flow has engulfed two seaside housing subdivisions — 100 percent of the Vacationland and all but about 30 percent in Kapoho Beach Lots.
“So if you combine the three of them (Kapoho, Vacationland and Leilani), we’re talking about 600 homes,” Kim told the reporters, according to Reuters.
“I’m talking about 600 families. Don’t forget the farmers, don’t forget the ranchers, don’t forget all the employees for them,” Kim added.
The latest estimate of losses exceeds the destruction of 215 structures by lava during an earlier eruption cycle that began in 1983.
Kilauea Volcano had never destroyed so many homes before in such a short period of time, Kim said.
According to geologist Scott Rowland, a volcano specialist from the University of Hawaii, the latest eruption is the most destructive in the United States since the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens that reduced hundreds of square miles to wasteland.
The lava eruption entered its 36th day on Thursday.
The assessment about property loss came moments after Gov. David Ige signed a memorandum of understanding providing $12 million in immediate state disaster relief to Hawaii.
Officials said the county has already shelled out at least $3 million for disaster response.
“Obviously things in the last few days have escalated significantly with fissure 8 continuing to put out a lot of volume of lava. It certainly has escalated the impact and devastation of the area,” Ige said in the news conference stating nobody knew things would get to this point.
“The past few days have got to be one of the saddest in my long life that I’ve experienced, but we’re going to do this. We will work as a team at the federal, state, our governor, so we eliminate all the bureaucracy delays that are natural, so we can get it done as soon as possible,” Kim said, reported Hawaii News Now.
Kim said there will be a construction of a new community, but, questions about where it could be and what it would look like cannot be answered.
He said that “It definitely means we will have to confront and respond to very tough questions as to why people should live in certain places,” stating that a task force has been assembled to begin to answer the questions.
“Our responsibility is to try to work with the community to rebuild out of harm’s way,” Kim added.
“Hawaii probably lost half of the state’s cut flower orchid production in four days. We just didn’t believe it would happen. We were there for so long and we were so established,” said Gregory Braun, one of hundreds of property owners assessing the damage.
The United States Geological Survey said 12,000 earthquakes have rattled the island since May 4.
Around 2,500 people have been displaced by evacuations across the island since early last month.