Peter Masek is a 22-year Leilani Estates resident who has built homes in the subdivision that are now gone.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
Marines Executive Officer Maj. David Bachta, left, and Gunnery Sgt. Todd Bauer will be flying one of the two Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters that have been sent to Hilo to help evacuate residents in the event that escape routes from lava-plagued areas such as Leilani Estates and Lanipuna worsen.
HILO >> The two U.S. Marine Corps Super Stallion helicopters deployed to Hilo will stay only through Monday in case of an emergency evacuation of Puna residents, a scenario that looks more likely as lava continues to advance into Leilani Estates.
A flow crossed Kahukai Street in Leilani Estates on Friday and is moving east, cutting off access to Mohala Street. Kaupili Street has not been cut off from the flow, but residents are told to remain out of the area.
“Right now these are here until Monday, but they might bring another team up,” said Maj. Jeff Hickman, spokesman for the Hawaii National Guard. “They were brought here just in case. We don’t know what’s going to happen or when, so having the Marines here, it’s a sense of comfort knowing that they’re here ’cause now we can take out way more people in a quicker amount of time.”
Each helicopter can carry up to 43 people at a time and evacuate an estimated 400 people within four hours.
On Monday if the situation is still the same with Kilauea Volcano threatening Lower Puna, military officials could call upon active duty for help, he said.
“There might be a little bit of a gap, but the Marines and active- duty Army all know that we can call them, and they’re all kind of leaning forward just waiting,” he said. “If we need them here in a hurry, we can get them here in a hurry.”
The Hawaii Army National Guard has three HH 60 Black Hawk medevac aircraft stationed in Hilo that can carry a half-dozen people and hoist residents out of dangerous areas one at a time. The Hawaii Army National Guard also has four to six UH 60 Black Hawks that can each fly up to a dozen people and land in smaller areas than the Super Stallions.
“What we want people to know is if it’s coming, evacuate now. Don’t let us have to air-evacuate you out unless it is an absolute emergency,” Hickman said. “Please evacuate so you don’t put first responders at risk.”
Officials don’t have an accurate count of people still living in the area, and residents are allowed to go in and out of the subdivision.
The tally of homes and other structures recently destroyed by lava on Hawaii island is now up to 82, Hawaii County officials said Friday.
Lava Breakouts Map by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd