Pahoa, Hawaii >> More than 200 people showed up at Pahoa High and Intermediate School on Thursday night to receive updates on Kilauea’s eruption.
Many of those attending were there not for themselves, but to gather information to help their neighbors, community members and family members.
Barbara Alvarez of Nanawale Estates said that since the eruption began about a week ago, she has been going every day to Leilani Estates, the subdivision evacuated because of the volcanic activity, sometimes multiple times a day, to see whether she can reach her sister’s home on Malama Street.
She said her sister lives in Canada, and Alvarez wants to save some of her sister’s belongings before lava reaches the home.
She said fissures block the way, and she’s heard the toxic gases in the area are so strong that geologists can’t even get to a seismometer they set up on the street to measure earthquakes in the area.
While Civil Defense has told her family that the home is still standing, she doesn’t know its condition.
She said her sister is “devastated.”
“It’s like losing a family member,” she said.
Others also still don’t know whether their homes are standing in Leilani Estates, said Greg Armstrong, the neighborhood watch coordinator for the subdivision.
Armstrong said he has been returning to the neighborhood every day since Sunday and finally stayed overnight on Wednesday.
He said he does about three neighborhood patrols a day to deter crime in the area while other homeowners are away.
He said some are asking him what happened to their homes, but he cannot access some areas because of the volcanic activity.
While the evacuation is still in effect in the area, residents are allowed in from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day to check on their property.
Armstrong said several people have returned home, staying overnight. He said he couldn’t return home Thursday night because he was attending the community meeting and wouldn’t be finished before 6 p.m.
He said whenever he returns he sees his neighbors helping each other.
“It’s pretty amazing the people we run into are 99 percent positive attitude,” he said, adding that they tell him, “We’re going to be fine and we’ll be back.”
He said one neighbor lost his home, but he still had a trailer and so has been helping other neighbors move their belongings.
That neighbor was finally able to get back to his house Thursday, the first time since the eruption, and found the only thing remaining was a pair of his young daughter’s slippers.
John Hendricks of Kapoho, a community to the east of Leilani Estates along the coast, said he attended the meeting because he wanted to hear what was happening with water, power and the road out of the neighborhood.
He said only one paved road leads into Kapoho: Highway 132, which was the area of high earthquake activity Thursday. He said if something happens to the road, the community of about 1,000 residents could be cut off.
The community also lost water after fissures broke an underground line, but water was restored by above-ground lines.
He said he was happy things were still working.
Judi Houle, a neighborhood watch coordinator for Puna, said she is concerned about the areas of Kapoho and Kalapana getting cut off by the volcanic activity, and she is working to prepare residents.
She said Thursday she donated water-filtering systems, flashlights and first-aid kits to volunteers to distribute in Vacationland, which was still without running water and electricity, near Kapoho on the coast.