ENVIRONMENT

Obama Declares Hawaiian Lava Flow To Be A Major Disaster

(Adds details on flow location)

Nov 3 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday declared a slow-moving lava flow from the Pu'u O'o vent of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii to be a major disaster, the White House said.

The declaration frees up federal money to help protect local communities from the lava flow, which began moving toward homes on the big island of Hawaii on June 27 and is threatening Pahoa village.

The leading edge of the flow has paused about 185 yards from Pahoa Village Road, the main thoroughfare through the town of about 800 residents at the site of an old sugar plantation.

No homes have been destroyed and no injuries have been reported.

The flow remained active as of Monday but it had not advanced since last Thursday, a County of Hawaii Civil Defense message said. The statement added that elections would go ahead on Tuesday at polling stations in the area.

The U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said a finger of lava on Monday was trudging downslope, parallel to a larger flow that crossed onto a residential property last week before stalling.

Kilauea has erupted continuously from its Pu'u O'o vent since 1983. The last home destroyed by lava on the Big Island was at the Royal Gardens subdivision in Kalapana in 2012.

On Sunday, two Hawaii residents were charged with trespassing after police found the man and woman snapping pictures within five feet of a slow-moving river of molten lava, police said.

The office of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii on Monday said the representative had been called up to serve as a military police captain alongside some 80 National Guard members already in the area. (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco and Karin Stanton in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

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BEFORE YOU GO

  • This Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows lava that has pushed through a fence marking a
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows lava that has pushed through a fence marking a property boundary above the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. After weeks of slow, stop-and-go movement, a river of asphalt-black lava was less than the length of a football field from homes in the Big Island community Tuesday. The lava flow easily burned down an empty shed at about 7:30 a.m., several hours after entering a residential property in Pahoa Village, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira. A branch of the molten stream was less than 100 yards (90 meters) from a two-story house. It could hit the home later Tuesday if it continues on its current path, Oliveira estimated. Residents of Pahoa Village, the commercial center of the island's rural Puna district south of Hilo, have had weeks to prepare for what's been described as a slow-motion disaster. Most have either already left or are prepared to go. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • This Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows lava that has pushed through a fence marking a
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows lava that has pushed through a fence marking a property boundary above the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. After weeks of slow, stop-and-go movement, a river of asphalt-black lava was less than the length of a football field from homes in the Big Island community Tuesday. The lava flow easily burned down an empty shed at about 7:30 a.m., several hours after entering a residential property in Pahoa Village, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira. A branch of the molten stream was less than 100 yards (90 meters) from a two-story house. It could hit the home later Tuesday if it continues on its current path, Oliveira estimated. Residents of Pahoa Village, the commercial center of the island's rural Puna district south of Hilo, have had weeks to prepare for what's been described as a slow-motion disaster. Most have either already left or are prepared to go. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • In this Oct. 27, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava flow from Kilauea Volcano that began on June 27 burn
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In this Oct. 27, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava flow from Kilauea Volcano that began on June 27 burns through thick vegetation below the pasture downslope of the Pahoa cemetery near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Residents of the small town have had weeks to prepare for what's been described as a slow-motion disaster. County officials are making arrangements for those living in the lava's path to be able to watch the lava destroy their homes as a means of closure. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • This Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows lava burning vegetation as it approaches a pro
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows lava burning vegetation as it approaches a property boundary above the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. After weeks of slow, stop-and-go movement, a river of asphalt-black lava was less than the length of a football field from homes in the Big Island community Tuesday. The lava flow easily burned down an empty shed at about 7:30 a.m., several hours after entering a residential property in Pahoa Village, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira. A branch of the molten stream was less than 100 yards (90 meters) from a two-story house. It could hit the home later Tuesday if it continues on its current path, Oliveira estimated. Residents of Pahoa Village, the commercial center of the island's rural Puna district south of Hilo, have had weeks to prepare for what's been described as a slow-motion disaster. Most have either already left or are prepared to go. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • This pair of images released Oct. 22, 2014 by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a comparison of a normal photograph of the lav
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This pair of images released Oct. 22, 2014 by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a comparison of a normal photograph of the lava flow front, left, with a thermal image of the flow that is threatening the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. The white box shows the approximate extent of the thermal image. The thermal image shows that active breakouts (white and yellow areas) are focused along the narrow lobe at the leading edge of the flow, but are also scattered for about 2 km (1.2 miles) behind the flow front. Authorities on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 said lava had advanced about 250 yards since Saturday morning and was moving at the rate of about 10 to 15 yards an hour, consistent with its advancement in recent days. The flow front passed through a predominantly Buddhist cemetery, covering grave sites in the mostly rural region of Puna, and was roughly a half-mile from Pahoa Village Road, the main street of Pahoa. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • This Oct. 25, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows lava flow advancing across the pasture between the Paho
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This Oct. 25, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows lava flow advancing across the pasture between the Pahoa cemetery and Apaa Street, engulfing a barbed wire fence, near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Dozens of residents in this rural area of Hawaii were placed on alert as flowing lava continued to advance. Authorities on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 said lava had advanced about 250 yards since Saturday morning and was moving at the rate of about 10 to 15 yards an hour, consistent with its advancement in recent days. The flow front passed through a predominantly Buddhist cemetery, covering grave sites in the mostly rural region of Puna, and was roughly a half-mile from Pahoa Village Road, the main street of Pahoa. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • This Oct. 26, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the lava flow front of from an eruption that began the
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This Oct. 26, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the lava flow front of from an eruption that began the June 27, as the front remains active and continues to advance towards the northeast threatening the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Dozens of residents in this rural area of Hawaii were placed on alert as flowing lava continued to advance. Authorities on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 said lava had advanced about 250 yards since Saturday morning and was moving at the rate of about 10 to 15 yards an hour, consistent with its advancement in recent days. The flow front passed through a predominantly Buddhist cemetery, covering grave sites in the mostly rural region of Puna, and was roughly a half-mile from Pahoa Village Road, the main street of Pahoa. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • This Oct. 25, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a Hawaii Volcano Observatory geologist standing on a pa
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This Oct. 25, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a Hawaii Volcano Observatory geologist standing on a partly cooled section of lava flow near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Note the thin red horizontal line of molten lava visible along the bottom third of the photo. The flow here is about one meter (three feet) thick, but slightly farther upslope where the lava has had more time to inflate the thickness was closer to two meters. Dozens of residents in this rural area of Hawaii were placed on alert as flowing lava continued to advance. Authorities on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 said lava had advanced about 250 yards since Saturday morning and was moving at the rate of about 10 to 15 yards an hour, consistent with its advancement in recent days. The flow front passed through a predominantly Buddhist cemetery, covering grave sites in the mostly rural region of Puna, and was roughly a half-mile from Pahoa Village Road, the main street of Pahoa. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • This Oct. 25, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a small shed being consumed by lava in a pasture betwee
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This Oct. 25, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a small shed being consumed by lava in a pasture between the Pahoa cemetery and Apa?a Street near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Dozens of residents in this rural area of Hawaii were placed on alert as flowing lava continued to advance. Authorities on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 said lava had advanced about 250 yards since Saturday morning and was moving at the rate of about 10 to 15 yards an hour, consistent with its advancement in recent days. The flow front passed through a predominantly Buddhist cemetery, covering grave sites in the mostly rural region of Puna, and was roughly a half-mile from Pahoa Village Road, the main street of Pahoa. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • This Oct. 26, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey a Hawaii Volcano Observatory geologist mapping the margin of
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This Oct. 26, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey a Hawaii Volcano Observatory geologist mapping the margin of the June 27 lava flow in the open field below Cemetery Road near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Dozens of residents in this rural area of Hawaii were placed on alert as flowing lava continued to advance. Authorities on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 said lava had advanced about 250 yards since Saturday morning and was moving at the rate of about 10 to 15 yards an hour, consistent with its advancement in recent days. The flow front passed through a predominantly Buddhist cemetery, covering grave sites in the mostly rural region of Puna, and was roughly a half-mile from Pahoa Village Road, the main street of Pahoa. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • In this Oct. 24, 2014 photo from the U.S. Geological Survey, the lava flow from Kilauea Volcano that began June 27 is seen as
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In this Oct. 24, 2014 photo from the U.S. Geological Survey, the lava flow from Kilauea Volcano that began June 27 is seen as it crossed Apa?a Street near Cemetery Road near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Hawaii authorities on Saturday told several dozen residents near the active lava flow to prepare for a possible evacuation in the next three to five days as molten rock oozed across the country road and edged closer to homes. The USGS says the flow is currently about 160 to 230 feet (50 to 70 meters) wide and moving northeast at about 10 yards (nine meters) per hour. It's currently about six-tenths of a mile (one kilometer) from Pahoa Village Road, the town's main street. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • This Oct. 22, 2014 photo provided by the United States Geological Survey shows lava flow slowly moving through thick vegetati
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This Oct. 22, 2014 photo provided by the United States Geological Survey shows lava flow slowly moving through thick vegetation and creating thick plumes of smoke as it advances on the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Frequent methane explosions occur, resulting from cooked vegetation releasing methane which then ignites. The explosions can range from small puffs to loud cannon-like blasts, and are an additional hazard in the immediate area of the flow margin. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
  • In this Oct. 22, 2014 photo provided by the United States Geological Survey, Hawaii Volcano Observatory geologists walk over
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In this Oct. 22, 2014 photo provided by the United States Geological Survey, Hawaii Volcano Observatory geologists walk over the surface of the flow to track surface breakouts along a portion of the flow margin, about a kilometer (0.6 miles) upslope of the flow front, as the lava advances on the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of hawaii. Scorched and burned trees are seena t rear. The growing stream of lava threatening homes is expanding and speeding up as it heads toward the small rural town. Officials say the lava advanced nearly 460 yards from Thursday morning to Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)