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Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano eruption impacts tourism

Konstantin Sheiko
May 21, 2018

Two weeks after the initial eruption, residents say it is getting worse. As new fissures tear through the ground near Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, officials are considering additional evacuations that could impact travel to the popular tourist attraction. One of the fissures opened up around 25 miles east of Kilauea’s summit and could result in the closure of an important exit route, Highway 132.   

The volcano-related hazards have intensified as well - first it was catastrophic lava. Then it was sulphur dioxide. Now Big Island residents have yet another danger to worry about. “Laze” - a mashup of "lava" and "haze" - is a nasty product formed when hot lava hits the ocean, sending hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles into the air. Laze can cause lung, eye and skin irritation. And it has proven deadly in the past. 

There are an estimated 2,000 residents in the southeast area of Hawaii’s Big Island who would be potentially trapped by the Highway 132 closure. Another possible route closure that could cause mass evacuations would be Highway 137, which Hawaii National Guard spokesman Jeff Hickman told Reuters would be a worst-case scenario. 

Nearly 2,000 residents have evacuated the lower Puna district of the Big Island already, and the combination of noxious gas and lava on the ground has continued to create concerns about the safety of locals and tourists visiting the region. Airlines serving Hawaii started waiving change fees for those scheduled to fly in or out of Hilo International and Kona International airports last week, but the dates for impacted flights continue to change. 

Carriers such as American, Hawaiian and United are working closely with passengers and officials in Hawaii to accommodate for the ongoing eruption and have extended the waiver through May 20. The tourism industry is feeling the impact of the volcano as well, with cancellations from May through July hitting at least $5 million.

Photo by Ivan Vtorov / Wikipedia Commons