Gov. David Ige believes the damage done by the Kilauea eruption in Puna may have already met the $2 million threshold for the federal government to declare a major disaster on Hawaii island.
Ige met with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials this morning at the Hawaii County Civil Defense headquarters, but even before the meeting, he expressed confidence the damage to public infrastructure such as roads will meet federal guidelines.
“What we are discussing with FEMA is for a major disaster declaration, so it’s not quite the same as we have in the past,” Ige said. “When we look at the cracks in the road and all of that, especially with Highway 130 being threatened, that we will achieve that.”
“When you look at all of the things that we would have to do to continue to allow the residents to have access to the various areas, we feel pretty good that we will meet that threshold,” he said. “You know, we might actually be there already, but we are also looking at the various workarounds to make sure that the community can continue to get access.”
The ongoing eruption in and around Leilani Estates has opened a dozen vents that destroyed 35 buildings so far, including at least 26 homes. Lava was not flowing from the vent this morning, according to county spokeswoman Janet Snyder.
Authorities on Monday closed Highway 130 between Pahoa and Old Kalapana Road until further notice in response to cracks that expanded to up to 4 inches wide, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno.
The cracks continued to expand Monday, and Magno said they are believed to be related to deformation from magma intruding under the roadway.
State officials have said they are planning to provide a much rougher, longer alternative route along the Puna coastline for residents of the Kalapana and Kaimu areas in the event the eruption permanently cuts the Keaau-Pahoa Road, according to a statement from the state Department of Transportation.
The cracking is at mile markers 14.4 and 14.6 on Highway 130, and widened over the weekend, according to state transportation officials.
Ige said a team of five FEMA officials is deploying to Hawaii island to inspect and document the damage, and another 10 FEMA staffers will work from Oahu. The Hawaii island crew members should all arrive today or tomorrow, he said.