The Hawaii Army National Guard has been building micro-shelters for people displaced by the Kilauea volcano eruption and subsequent lava flows.
The volcano has displaced thousands of residents and destroyed hundreds of homes, erasing entire neighborhoods.
Engineers with the Guard have been working since June 7 to build the housing units, in partnership with Hope Services Hawaii and on land provided by Sacred Heart Search.
The initial phase will feature 20 housing units, with the families living in them previously living in shelters, cars, and tents.
“It’s important to help the people affected by the lava flow, to help the kids at the shelters, the elderly people,” said Capt. Matthew Driggers, commander of the 230th Engineer Company, which provided 48 soldiers to support the effort. “I take it very personal and want to help out.”
Members of the 230th are providing a large portion of the skilled labor, with help from volunteers from local contracting companies and charity organizations.
There’s no specific date that the community will be ready but the National Guard said it should be ready soon.
Following the initial eruption in early May, subsequent eruptions and the Kilauea lava flows have covered significant ground, around 9 square miles as of June 10 at 12 p.m. local time, according to the United States Geological Survey. Some lava flows entered into the Leilani Estates, while others made contact with the ocean around Vacationland Hawaii.
Hawaii News Now reported that vigorous eruptions from fissure No. 8 have continued into June 11, with lava foundations nearly 200 feet high spewing into two lava flows.
Gas emissions from the fissure have nearly doubled recently, triggering fresh air quality concerns and prompting authorities to warn residents that have not evacuated of heavier fog in some areas of the Big Island.
“Three closely spaced lava fountains at the fissure have been feeding into a channel in the northeast, and another into the ocean, creating a land mass where Kapoho Bay once was,” the local media reported.
The lava flows have been accompanied by earthquakes in some areas, such as a 5.2-magnitude quake that struck near Kilaueau summit around 4:50 a.m. on Saturday.
Around the same time, the latest eruption took place, with an ash plume swelling to 10,000 feet in the air.
The eruption marked the 39th day on Sunday, and is the most destructive in the United States since the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state, geologist Scott Rowland, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, told Reuters.
Vacationland has been totally erased by the eruptions, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said, while at least 330 houses were destroyed in the Kapoho Beach Lots.