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Residents Accept Possible Wipeout From Lava Flows

December 9, 1986

KALAPANA, Hawaii (AP) _ A silver trail of wood smoke rises from lava burning its way through the hills, but residents of this small coastal village say they won’t be chased away by a volcano that’s consumed 11 homes.

″If you are going to come, come. You can have it. I’ll start over,″ declared innkeeper Clarence Ching in mock defiance of Kilauea Volcano, which is unleashing the lava flow that burned its 11th home Monday.

Eight other homes remain directly threatened, three near the sea and five in a wooded hillside subdivision, but the entire community is under a potential threat as the volcano’s eruptive phase that began July 18 in a vent eight miles up the mountain shows no sign of letting up.

Most residents of this village on the southeast side of Hawaii Island downplayed dangers from the volcano.

″I’m not going to move. This is my home here,″ said Walter Yamaguchi, 72, who with his wife owns the Kalapana Store and Drive Inn, around which most of the town’s activity centers. ″This is not the first time the volcano has come down. I’ve seen the volcano all my life, since I was a kid.

″If you lose, you lose. It’s like a gamble. Business is a gamble. Life is a gamble.″

The home destroyed Monday was consumed by a finger of lava that broke out from the main flow, burning through a wooded area and coming to within a half- mile of four homes in the Keoni subdivision.

By sunset Monday, lava from a huge lake of molten rock over the vent in Kilauea’s east rift zone had spawned a new lava flow to the northeast, drawing lava away from the flows that come this way, geologists said.

Lava from the main flow entered the ocean near here Nov. 28, creating 20 new acres of land. Late Monday, no more lava could be seen going into the ocean and only small amounts of activity could be seen near the coast.

Looking up from two-lane Kalapana Highway, the hillsides are streaked with dark areas marking where lava rivers, in recent weeks and in 1984, burned their way through the thick ohia tree forests.

The trees, along with hardy ferns and grasses, eventually return to take root in the hardened rock.

Along the highway, lush verdant areas of tall ohia trees and palm trees alternate with barren, rocky stretches where only small, scrubby ohia have taken root.

Kalapana itself appears little changed by the volcanic activity.

Along the rocky shoreline by the town’s park, Michael Chun Kaupo and two friends enjoyed a sausage barbecue by the sea, having decided against surfing.

″We come down here all the time, but there’s no surf today, the water is kind of rough and choppy,″ said Kaupo, who works as a papaya picker.

Kaupo said the volcano is a risk he accepts, although he hopes the lava will not come through the town.

″We also don’t want it to destroy Queen’s Bath,″ he said. ″There’s good swimming there.″ Queen’s Bath is a volcanically formed fresh water pool once used exclusively, according to local lore, by Hawaii’s royalty.

Palm trees in Kalapana hug the narrow road, while fences of black lava rock separate the yards of the small homes. The sound of waves hitting the shore can be heard from almost anywhere.

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