I was lucky in I983 to see Pu’u O’o fountaining while visiting my folks in Leilani Estates. Residents and tourists alike witnessed as Pele covered Kamoamoa, Waha’ula, Royal Gardens, Queen’s Bath and Kalapana. During this volatile and spectacular time in Pele’s history, Harry Kim was Civil Defense, a calm cool breeze to the people who were losing their homes to the hot lava. Residents were included every step of the way, and Mr. Kim probably spent more time in Kalapana then at home.
In contrast, Act 111 establishes an indefinite emergency state in Puna to hopefully receive federal money to help pay for Big Island lava woes. Terrified residents start relocating immediately after attending a public meeting with fantasy HVO computer generated images of lava projections maps with blue flames covering Hawaiian Beaches, Ainaloa and Paradise Park. Reputable mags like Newsweek had the lava crossing the highway and burning homes. TV and Civil Defense screamed about dangerous lava, while politicians, newsmen, and comedians-turned-bully-advisors toured it. To “protect” the rights and privacy of a few and “prevent” injuries to the foolish, Pahoa was split apart creating financial hardships to businesses, pedestrians, bus riders, as well as a traffic and logistical nightmare for Puna. This community has and is still is paying a very high price.
Stepping back, I am fully aware that potentially affected infrastructure, commercial districts, schools and housing density is much greater than in Kalapana days. I am also aware that our Hawaii lawmakers and planners approved those homes, schools and shopping centers, some along lines of steepest descent (blue lines). Thirdly, Kilauea is an active volcano, which has continually flowed over our Puna landscape for eons.
So, back to the subject, overnight hundreds of school children were forcibly relocated, and how many more households moved due to cancellation of Section 8 housing (shades of genocide?). Pahoa’s Community Center was taken away from the community and appropriated to Civil Defense. Our seniors were kicked out of their center and that was given back to the Fire Department. The new skate park was barricaded and the center of quaint old Pahoa was and still is being used as our trash dump.
Lava changed direction, and although no formal evacuation was ever ordered, for some strange reason, on the same day, in graceful unison, all corporate businesses (Malama Market, Ace Hardware, Lex Brodies, Malama Gas Station, Subway and Longs Drugs) packed their bags and left town. This was while the flow was still over a half-mile away.
Lava changed direction again, but now months of no large grocery, pharmacy, hardware, tire repair, and miles and hours lost waiting with the rest of lower Puna in the gridlock that may not have happened if the powers in charge had a more relaxed and steady approach, kind of like Pele. Oh, and so you know, the County is charging Puna HeleOn bus riders an extra $1 per bag for groceries they need to buy in Keaau or Hilo and carry home to Pahoa since the market closed.
How much money do Hawaii keiki owe for this current lava emergency? How are we financing this? How will we get back the 22.2 million dollars taken from our Pahoa park fund? Is the geothermal relocation money still in the bank (since mayor stopped relocation)? Has government poached monies meant for other Puna projects? All of this and Pele has only taken one home. We need some answers right away!