By Stan Friedman
KEAAU, HI (September 12, 2014) — Members of Puna Covenant Church, located on Hawaii’s Big Island, are preparing to evacuate their homes in case the lava flow from the erupting Kilauea Volcano continues to slide its way to their region.
If the flow continues on its current course, it will reach Lower Puna, a highly populated area where most people from the church live, in roughly two weeks, pastor Jack Snell told Anita Eyer, director of Pacific Southwest Conference Ministries, on Thursday.
The flow is expected to cross Highway 130, the main artery into Lower Puna, thus cutting off people from their homes. A new road is under construction to seek to facilitate transport should the highway be blocked.
Snell plans to meet with officials from two preschools who have asked about relocating to the church from Lower Puna because the church is located eight miles from the flow.
The potential slow-motion disaster comes on the heels of Hurricane Iselle in mid-August that caused damage and left many residents in the area without power for two weeks. During that time, the Puna church served as a Red Cross shelter and distribution point, serving meals to 100 people daily for five days.
Snell asked that people pray for his church and community.
Kilauea has been erupting since 1983 and been a popular tourist attraction. Previously, the lava has flowed into the ocean, but scientists discovered in June that it had shifted eastward toward the residential areas.
In the 1990s, about 200 homes were destroyed by lava flows from Kilauea. The last evacuations from the volcano came in 2011, when one home was destroyed. Other homes were spared when the lava changed course.