Journalists, students take first Hawaii lava tours
HILO, Hawaii (AP) — More people are getting a firsthand look at the lava threatening a rural Big Island community.
A group of journalists got their first official tour of the lava flow Monday, following the first of a series of field trips to the area by local schoolchildren.
About 20 journalists trudged across the cracked, black lava at the town of Pahoa’s waste transfer station, where the flow came within feet of burning structures before losing momentum and stalling.
The lava’s surface there had cooled and hardened but was still releasing small, warm columns of air, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.
The lava from Kilauea volcano emerged from a vent in June and crept through uninhabited areas until this fall, when it reached Pahoa, crossed a rural road and burned a house.
On Tuesday, the flow front remained about 2.3 miles upslope of the intersection of Highway 130 and the town’s main road after advancing 225 yards overnight, said Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County civil defense administrator.
The front was about 150 to 200 yards wide and wasn’t posing an immediate threat, he said.
Civil defense and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory officials guided the journalists’ tour. Earlier in the day, they took a group of schoolchildren to the section of molten rock that crossed a country road.
It was one of several planned field trips aimed at educating area students about the science of eruptions.
Officials say the pilot program will help them decide whether to offer viewing tours to the wider public. Access so far has been restricted because of safety concerns.
Journalists weren’t allowed to be at the site while the students were there because of privacy concerns and to avoid subjecting students to more stress, the Tribune-Herald reported. The approaching lava forced the closure of several schools, requiring students to be rerouted to other schools or a temporary site.
Up to 1,000 students are expected to view the lava by week’s end.
“The students didn’t know a lot about the lava flow when they first got out here, and they had a lot of questions,” said Keaau Elementary Principal Keone Farias, incoming superintendent for Kau, Keaau and Pahoa schools.
Farias said a highlight of the children’s visit was getting to meet Oliveira, known for his leadership in preparing the community for the lava.
“He was definitely a hit,” Farias said. “It was putting a face to civil defense.”
Kilauea volcano is one of the world’s most active volcanos. It has been erupting continuously for more than 31 years.
Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/