Hawaii volcano, quake evacuees share stories of shock, fear, frustration

Many of the hundreds who've fled their homes following this week's eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano -- and a subsequent series of earthquakes, including a magnitude-6.9 temblor Friday -- have described a harrowing and surreal experience.

The situation has prompted Hawaii Gov. David Ige to issue an emergency proclamation and deploy members of the Hawaii National Guard to assist with emergency response efforts.

"I ran in, grabbed the dogs, put them in a crate, put them in the car, went in my room, just grabbed an armload of clothes, and here we are."

— Stephen Clapper, evacuee

The ordeal has been made worse by the release of dangerous levels of sulphur dioxide gas into the air, officials said.

"We had to evacuate. My mother was out of portable oxygen, so that's a first concern. She's 88 years old," resident Stephen Clapper told KHON-TV. "I told my mother this morning to pack a bag just in case -- a go bag -- and I ran in, grabbed the dogs, put them in a crate, put them in the car, went in my room, just grabbed an armload of clothes, and here we are."

Richard Jones, who stayed home, said he would flee only if he absolutely had to, but would "deal with it as it comes," the station reported.

"If this opens up, I'll leave. If they force me to leave, I'll leave. Other than that, I ain't planning to leave," Jones said. "Whatever happens, happens. That's it."

Ikaika Marzo, born and raised in the lower Puna area of Hawaii's Big Island, on which the volcano is located, told KHON-TV that "everybody's shocked, sad."

"Disbelief. They didn't know, didn't ever think it was going to happen in Leilani Estates ever in my lifetime, ever in their lifetime," he said, referring to the subdivision near Pahoa that seemed to be the most severely affected community.

At Leilani Estates, which has about 1,700 residents and 770 homes, lava from the volcano was seen pushing through cracks in the earth.

A nearby neighborhood, Lanipuna Gardens, which has a few dozen people, also has been evacuated.

One Leilani resident said he grabbed his father's ashes as he ran out the door, Hawaii News Now reported.

"My family is safe, the rest of the stuff can be replaced," another resident said, according to the channel. "When I bought here 14 years [ago], I knew that this day would eventually come. But the reality is sinking in now."

"My family is safe, the rest of the stuff can be replaced. When I bought here 14 years [ago], I knew that this day would eventually come. But the reality is sinking in now."

— Leilani Estates resident

Henry Caleo and his wife Stella were among 63 evacuees at the Pahoa Regional Community Center, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. A second emergency shelter was opened at the Kea'au Community Center.

Since they fled, reliable information has been scarce, they said.

“We don’t know anything,” Stella Caleo said. “We don’t know if we’re going to lose our house. We know nothing.”

The Caleos said they spend more than $3,200 a year on volcano insurance. But “the bad part” has come, Henry Caleo said.

“It hurts — a lot,” Henry Caleo said. “I don’t want to start all over again.”

Nina Bersamina Marrufo said on the Pahoa Community Center Facebook page that the experience has been “unreal.”

“I feel like I’m in a movie,” she wrote.

Stacy Welch also “checked in to” the community center’s Facebook page.

“We are officially evacuated due to the sulfur,” she wrote. “Lava glow is visible from our yard through the trees and three streets down from us.”

Other residents are chipping in to lend aid to evacuees, even for “fur babies.”

“My awesome friend and her tribe just dropped off supplies there,” Lei Mahi wrote on the center’s Facebook page.

In addition to needing supplies, residents are dealing with power outages in the wake of earthquakes tripping power lines, KHON-TV reported, citing information from Hawaii Electric Light Co.

As of Friday night, 6,300 customers were without power.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park evacuated all visitors and non-emergency staff. The quakes triggered rock slides on park trails and crater walls. Narrow fissures appeared on the ground at a building overlooking the crater at Kilauea's summit.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii Community College both closed campuses to allow students and employees to "attend to personal business and priorities."

Authorities already had closed a long stretch of Highway 130, one of the main arteries through Puna, because of the threat of sulfuric gas.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.