HAWAII – For the second time in four years, Doloryn Purfano is starting over. Except this time, the giddy anticipation of a new life on an island paradise has been replaced by bleak uncertainty and fear that her dream may be gone forever.
“I had to leave almost everything behind,” she said, biting her periwinkle-painted fingernails outside a community help center in Pahoa.
She had managed to grab a black trashbag before she left her home near the Leilani Estates. She tossed in her favorite yellow sundress, a beat-up paperback copy of “The Maze Runner” and a couple of pictures of her friends.
“I don’t know what to do now,” she told one of the volunteers in almost a whisper before tearing up. “What do I do?”
The tension, fear and uncertainty of living near an evacuation area have taken its toll on the thousands rendered homeless since the recent eruption of Kilauea four weeks ago.
“People are at their breaking point,” Keala Martins-Keliihoomalu, a 27-year-old full-time student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo who helped organize a community food and clothing drive, told
“You see really old people sleeping on the ground and in tents,” she said. “They have lost their homes, everything they have ever had. We give them a place to cry it out. They need to be spoken to like people and not barked at. Think of everything they have been through.”
On May 3, Kilauea began shooting ash plumes 30,000 feet into the air. Thick waves of lava seeped from fissures in the ground, destroying homes, choking off escape routes and knocking out power before creeping its way toward the ocean. As it hit the blue waters of the Pacific, it created a dangerous steam laced with hydrochloric acid and fine glass.
Thick “vog” – volcanic smog created by vapor, sulfur dioxide gas and carbon dioxide – blanketed a 2,400-acre zone, and just this week, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey warned of volcanic glass called “Pele’s hair” falling from the sky.