The volcano burning through homes in Hawaii

Go with the flow: Scientists do not know when it will end; it could be days, or months. © Getty

Would you live near a volcano? In Hawaii, 26 homes have been destroyed by molten hot lava spewing from the ground near the mighty Kilauea. Around 1,700 residents have been forced to flee.

When school teacher Amber Makuakane closed her door on Friday, she knew she may never return.

She was right. Not long after, her home was destroyed by lava from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting since Thursday. At least 26 homes have been destroyed so far.

Normally, Kilauea’s magma bubbles up safely in the surrounding national park. However, last week there was “a major readjustment with the volcano’s plumbing system,” explained one scientist. The lava began erupting right underneath people’s homes.

As the pressure built up underground, fissures cracked open in the streets. Elsewhere, vents spat out “lava fountains” taller than the Statue of Liberty.

Luckily, no one has lost their life yet. But they have lost other things. Corey Hale told reporters that she wished she had grabbed a compass belonging to her great-grandfather. “At this point, I’ve got what I’ve got on my back,” she said.

And yet some residents are surprisingly relaxed. “The land doesn’t really belong to us. It belongs to Pele,” said Jordan Sonner. “If she wants it back, she’ll take it.”

Would you live near a volcano?

Hothouse

Of course not, cry some. Knowing that your home could be destroyed at any moment sounds terrifying. Even if you outrun the lava, there is a risk of toxic gas killing you instead. And losing a home is devastating; the best insurance still cannot replace items with sentimental value. It is better to stay far, far away.

There are surprising benefits, say others. The views are fantastic. The soil is the most fertile in the world. But most of all, volcanoes remind us that nature is far more beautiful and powerful than anything humans create. “It’s just awesome to see the Earth alive right in front of you,” one resident explained. What’s a little risk compared to that?

You Decide

  1. If you had to flee your house, which three things would you take with you? (Not including people and pets.)

Activities

  1. Draw and label a diagram which explains how volcanoes erupt.

Some People Say...

“Men argue. Nature acts.”

Voltaire

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is relatively easy to predict when a volcano might erupt. Scientists first noticed something was up with Kilauea on April 30, three days before the eruption. So far, no one has been killed or even injured.
What do we not know?
How long the eruption will last. When a similar eruption happened in 1955, it went on for 88 days.

Word Watch

Magma
Molten rock beneath Earth’s surface.
Lava
This is the name we give to magma once it is above the surface. This lava is over 1,000C. It moves at less than one mile per hour.
Fissures
A long crack in Earth’s surface which lava escapes through. New fissures have formed around Kilauea since Thursday.
Vents
Anywhere that lava erupts. The central vent is found in the crater of the volcano.
Pele
One of the most famous Hawaiian deities, Pele is the goddess of fire and volcanoes.

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