Hawai’i Catholics helping people forced to flee volcano


A volcanic eruption in Hawai’i is forcing many people to evacuate their homes.

In the Leilani Estates, a rural subdivision, on the eastern tip of the island, at least 15 fissures have opened up since May 3 spewing molten rock and poisonous sulphur dioxide gas.

This subdivision is in the Sacred Heart parish. Parishioners who have been forced to evacuate are being taken in by fellow parish members, according to parish administrator Father Ernesto Juarez.

Juarez has also made the parish hall in Pahoa, about 5 kilometres away from the fissures, available as a crisis information centre.

At the centre, evacuees can connect with personnel from Hawai’i County and social service agencies for information or apply for assistance.

The church secretary and business manager, Bernice Walker, said it had been inundated with hundreds of people who were all doing their best to cope.

“There is relief their stuff got taken out. There is frustration because things don’t happen quick enough.

“There is happiness as loved ones are safe. There is worry because animals are left behind.

“I mean there is every emotion under the sun that you can think of that happens in times of crisis like we are having.”

Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu was at the parish May 5-6, the weekend the eruption started, for a previously arranged episcopal visitation and to administer the sacrament of confirmation.

With hundreds of small earthquakes predicting volcanic activity, the bishop had offered to reschedule his visit. After consulting with some of his parishioners, he decided to proceed as planned.

“I was happy to be there with them during that time,” the bishop said.

“I was actually surprised how normal life seemed in Pahoa, despite the eruption that was taking place in the parish boundaries,” the bishop said. “I did not detect any panic or great anxiety.”

The island of Hawai’i, locally know as the Big Island, is the largest island in the Hawaiian Archipelago.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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