Nearly a month after lava from Kilauea Volcano encroached into his front yard, Victor Hoapili’s home is still standing, but he is unable to live in it for the foreseeable future.
“My house is surrounded by lava right now. I can’t ever get back into my house until they build another road,” said Hoapili, who was 2,700 miles away Monday on a preplanned trip to Las Vegas. “The day before the lava went over the road, I had hours to get the rest of my stuff out.”
Hoapili’s home is among five houses built on a hillside adjacent to a massive lava lake still intact in Leilani Estates.
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He had evacuated earlier this month but returned to the rural subdivision last week and spoke with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser before the lava advanced 50 feet and cut off access to his home over the weekend.
His mother, Ida Smith, 82, who lived down the road in Pohoiki, also was evacuated earlier this month, he said.
“I couldn’t stay there. I just came back and stayed until the night to see the nighttime viewing,” he said.
On Friday, firefighters and emergency medical personnel along with U.S. Geological Survey workers helped him move his remaining belongings from the home.
“They all said, ‘Brah, you gotta get out,’” he said. “We rushed in there and got the rest of my belongings.”
An emergency alert was issued at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday over mobile phones in an area covering large parts of three roads in the subdivision because lava was moving at a “fast walking pace.”
Evacuation personnel on the ground were aided by U.S. Geological Survey drones equipped with infrared sensing equipment that helped locate people.
The county reported at least 10 homes were destroyed overnight, bringing the number of structures claimed to 92, including 51 homes.
Still, Hoapili said he feels fortunate.
“I’m one of the fortunate few. My home is still standing. Although I can’t go back to it for the foreseeable future, I still have a home,” he said. “Those people there are losing their homes as we speak. Their homes are being burnt down left and right. It has changed my life dramatically like everybody else, but I just have to be as positive as I can. I still have a future, I’m alive and well.”
He is living with his girlfriend in Hawaiian Paradise Park for now and said he has family in Hilo.
“I’m fortunate that I have somebody I can be with that has another residence, unlike people who are living in shelters and have been since the 3rd of May,” he said. “Those are the true heroes. That’s willpower and that is strength to do that. God bless them all.”