LEILANI ESTATES, Hawaii — On Hawaii’s Big Island, about a dozen people who ignored evacuation orders, are now surrounded by flowing lava. Their only way out will be by helicopter. A huge lava front is consuming everything in its path. Massive amounts of molten rock — an unstoppable force of nature."
In the community of Kapoho, authorities had been anticipating that the lava would get there for days.
Helicopter pilot Colin Burkardt has watched it all unfold since the eruption began a month ago.
"This could be an inevitable lava flow. It could end up being a new eruption site, it may never go back to crater, it may never shift back up the rift zone," Burkardt said.
Now, homes and businesses are gone, and anything that survives here will be cut off from the rest of the island.
Residents packed up what they could before the lava arrived.
The area is known as four corners because it’s the intersection of two major highways. Lava has covered it all. There is nothing left … and with it, the two major escape routes for people in this community.
On the ground in Leilani Estates, lava is still taking out homes.
When one home caught fire, a sheriff’s deputy — on vacation from Virginia and curious about the lava — just happened to be there.
"So I went around the side, banged on the door a couple of times, announced sheriff’s department, and then I breached the door," Jason Patch said.
Smoke filled the home but no one was there. Patch, helplessly, watched it burn.
"It was bad knowing you can’t do anything about it," Patch said
From the air, Leilani Estates has changed dramatically over the last four weeks. Where there were once homes and a thriving community, there are now just rivers of lava with no end in sight. The landscape here has changed permanently.
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