INTERNATIONAL.- The slopes of Kilauea offer a lush rural setting and affordable land, but living on one of the world’s most active volcanoes comes with risks: A dozen lava vents have opened in the streets, and 35 structures have burned down. The Leilani Estates subdivision was ordered to evacuate after lava burst through cracks in the ground.
But Cheryl Griffith refused to leave. As lava crawled down Leilani Road in a hissing, popping mass, she stood in its path and placed a plant in the crack in the ground as an offering to the Native Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele. “I love this place, and I’ve been around the volcano for a while,” said Griffith, 61.
“I’m just not one to rush off.” The subdivision in the Puna district, a region of mostly unpaved roads of volcanic rock, is about a 30-minute drive from the coastal town of Hilo. Puna has thick jungle as well as dark fields of lava rock from past eruptions. The gently sloping volcano dips from its summit to Puna’s white sand beaches and jagged sea cliffs. The landscape and the property values contrast sharply with Hawaii’s more expensive real estate.
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The region has macadamia nut farms and other agriculture along with multimillion-dollar homes with manicured lawns. Other houses are modest, sitting on small lots with old cars and trucks scattered about. For many people outside Hawaii, it’s hard to understand why anyone would risk living near an active volcano with such destructive power. But the people here are largely self-sufficient and understand the risks of their location.
Amber Makuakane, a 37-yearold teacher and single mother of two, lost her three-bedroom house to the lava. She grew up here and lived in the house for nine years. Her parents also live in Leilani Estates. “The volcano and the lava — it’s always been a part of my life,” she said. “It’s devastating ... but I’ve come to terms with it.”