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Leilani Estates shelter evacuee dies by apparent suicide

A Leilani Estates man who was registered at the emergency shelter at Pahoa Community Center has apparently died by suicide, hanging himself in a wooded area near the shelter, according to a source.

A spokesman for the Hawaii Island police department confirmed a man who was registered at the shelter has died, and said an autopsy is being performed today to determine the cause of death. No other information about the man was available this afternoon.

A source familiar with the incident said the man was reportedly despondent over a break-up with a romantic partner.

County officials reported 409 people were being housed today at three emergency shelters including the Pahoa shelter, which is run by the county Department of Parks and Recreation with support from the Hawaii chapter of the American Red Cross.

Additional shelters at the Keaau Community Center and the Sure Foundation Church have been consolidated and moved to the Keaau Armory, according to a notice by Hawaii County Civil Defense today.

The shelters have been staffed with trained Red Cross nurses and mental health volunteers, who have provided more than 6,200 health and mental health services to those in need, according to Red Cross. So far, a total of 300 Red Cross volunteers have assisted evacuees.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim urged officials with the county Department of Parks and Recreation this morning to find ways to make the evacuation shelters “more livable, any kind of little thing to make it more comfortable for the people living there.”

A spokeswoman quoted Kim as saying that “we have to do everything we can to help our citizens ride this out.”

Red Cross is seeking volunteers from Hawaii island to staff the shelters, and training will be provided. Volunteer applications are available at www.redcross.org. For more information, call (808) 739-8122

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