EMERGENCY efforts are under way in Hawaii as the volcano of Kilauea continued to erupt for a fourth week. Lava has blocked roads and destroyed more than 70 homes.
Churches have opened emergency shelters, and are posting appeals on their social-media accounts asking for volunteers and donations for those in emergency accommodation.
More than 2000 people so far have had to leave their homes since the volcano and its fissures began erupting at the beginning of May. A new wave of evacuations was ordered this week, after one of the cracks in the ground began producing lava fountains 200 feet high, a civil-defence spokesman said.
Kilauea is the most active of the five volcanos that form the island of Hawaii.
The Holy Apostles’ Episcopal Church, in Hilo, which is about half an hour north of the evacuation zone, is closest to the volcano and its active fissures. Its priest, the Revd Katlin McCallister, told the Episcopal News Service that the response of faith groups across the island to the still-unfolding emergency was “truly inspiring”.
Members of her congregation have seen their homes engulfed by the lava flows. Communities are affected not only by the lava, but by the ash from the volcano, which is affecting air quality and causing respiratory problems. Masks are being distributed, but the church is trying to raise money to buy air purifiers for schools in neighbouring areas.
Ms McCallister said: “It’s an emotional situation for people. We’re talking about homes and lives, cultural heritage. Family heritage is a deep, deep part of life here.”
The Bishop of Hawaii, the Rt Rev Robert Fitzpatrick, pledged support and urged Christians to direct their donations to the churches.
He said: “In Hawaii, we respect nature. Living in the middle of the ocean, we always know that human life is fragile and set in a much larger reality — physical and spiritual. So, now, in a time when answers do not come easily, we to turn to God and we care for others. We are all voyagers on the holy vaka of life. . .
“In the future, some will rebuild, and others will have to move to new homes. For now, we help as we can.”