U.S. Geological Survey via AP

Historic Hawaii volcano eruption scarred landscape, lives

May 02, 2019 - 11:55 pm

A year after a volcano on Hawaii's Big Island rained lava and gases in one of its largest and most destructive eruptions in recorded history, people who lost their homes and farms in the disaster are still struggling to return to their cherished island lifestyle.

More than 700 homes were destroyed in the historic eruption, and most people will never move back to their land.

Over the course of four months, Kilauea spewed enough lava to fill 320,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, burying an area more than half the size of Manhattan in up to 80 feet (24 meters) of now-hardened molten rock. The lava reduced landmarks, streets and neighborhoods to a vast field of blackened boulders and volcanic shard.

But the disaster, which county officials estimate will cost about $800 million to recover from, affected more than just the people and places in the lava's path.

Dozens of nearby homes that were spared still sit empty, either cut off by surrounding flows, damaged by airborne debris or downwind of cracks that continue to spew toxic gases.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, who lost a home in the eruption, says people are just beginning to come to terms with the devastation.

"We as human beings wish for normal to come back," Kim said. "In a volcanic eruption, everything you know is no longer there."

The longtime mayor says many outsiders question why anyone would want to live on the side of an active volcano.

"This is and was a very beautiful place to live. It was special," Kim said. "It's not just a home, it's a lifestyle here."

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