PAHOA, HAWAII – A contingent of National Guard troops was dispatched to a Hawaii town on Thursday to provide security to the Big Island community threatened by a river of molten lava that is slowly creeping toward the town’s main road, an emergency official said.
The lava flow from the Kilauea volcano has been slithering toward the village of Pahoa for weeks and at last watch was advancing at less than 5 yards (meters) an hour, said Darryl Oliveira, director of Hawaii County Civil Defense.
On Thursday morning, a contingent of 83 National Guard troops was traveling in a road convoy and expected to arrive later in the day in the community, where some residents have expressed concern about potential looters targeting evacuated homes.
“These are local troops, people from the community. They’ll be here working to take care of their family and friends,” Oliveira told a news conference.
The lava threatens to destroy homes and cut off a road and a highway through Pahoa, but officials have not offered any predictions on when exactly it could bisect the town of about 800 residents at the site of an old sugar plantation.
No homes have been destroyed so far, and a finger of lava that threatens one house on the edge of town has not advanced closer to the evacuated structure since Wednesday night, Oliveira said. The lava remained about 100 feet (30 meters) from the home, he said.
Meanwhile, the glowing leading edge of the lava flow is now about 160 yards from Pahoa Village Road, the main street through the town, officials said in a statement.
Residents of about 50 dwellings in what civil defense officials called a “corridor of risk” have been asked to be ready to leave, and many have been slowly emptying their homes of furniture and treasured possessions.
Kilauea has erupted continuously from its Pu’u O’o vent since 1983, with its latest lava flow beginning on June 27. The last home destroyed by lava on the Big Island was at the Royal Gardens subdivision in Kalapana in 2012.