Volcanic gases prompt evacuation of stragglers in Hawaii


PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) — Police went door-to-door in Hawaii to roust residents near two new volcanic vents emitting dangerous gases in areas where lava has poured into streets and backyards for the past week.

Authorities had ordered nearly 2,000 residents to leave the two communities in the mostly rural district of Puna on Hawaii's Big Island last Thursday. But some ignored the order and stayed to watch over their property.

But on Tuesday, the emergence of the two new vents prompted Hawaii County to issue a cellphone alert ordering stragglers in the Lanipuna Gardens neighborhood to get out immediately. Police followed up with personal visits.

Officers found a number of people still at their residences but there were no sign of holdouts later, said Talmadge Magno, the administrator for Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Edwin Montoya, 76, had planned to stay to care for animals and keep looters away from his family's property in the nearby Leilani Estates. But he was forced to evacuate after the new fissures emerged, including one just a mile away.

"I'm in my truck right now on my way up the road," he said. "The police came down here and made me."

Both communities are in a forested, remote part of the Big Island on the eastern flank of Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting continuously since 1983.

In recent years the volcano has mostly released lava in hard-to-reach areas inside a national park or along the coastline. But last week, vents popped open and released lava, gas and steam inside residential neighborhoods.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.