EXCLUSIVE LIVE: Mayor Kim Speaks Candidly Amid Ongoing Volcanic Eruption
June 11 – 7:30 a.m. UPDATE: Maui Now meteorologist Malika Dudley interviews Big Island Mayor Harry Kim LIVE at the Emergency Operations Center in Hilo.
An estimated 400 people are in shelters and at least 600-700 structures have been lost according to Mayor Kim. “I would not be surprised if it’s over 700,” said Mayor Kim, who noted that the County is currently working on an overlay to confirm just how man structures were lost to the ongoing eruption at Kīlauea volcano’s East Rift Zone.
Mayor Kim was also asked about a new development proposed to help those who have lost homes as a result of lava inundation. “Last week, it was almost a very sad time for many, many reasons. (There were) people you know who lost everything,” said Mayor Kim after lava inundated Kapoho Bay and the surrounding community.
He said that when you’re young, “losing everything is tragic… but you can see tomorrow, because you’re still young. When you’re in your 60s or 70s and you lose everything, it’s a different ball game.”
“We’re going to try to develop a community so that a person–copying the old days of the Kaikoʻo Tsunami Project–when a person has lost everything and we can document that, we will buy his lot that was covered by lava in exchange for a lot that he can build on,” said Mayor Kim of the vision for a multi-agency rebuilding effort.
In response to Maui Now’s inquiry about the concerns raised by those who have lost everything, Mayor Kim said many are asking, “What now? A lot of them in Puna are just middle-income or less–this is all they’ve got. Along with the loss of their home, they lost their job because their farm is gone, or whatever income they were getting” said Mayor Kim.
Over the weekend, hundreds of contractors gathered to begin construction of a micro-shelter project at Sacred Heart Church in Pāhoa.
The vision was born out of a conversation between concerned community members. Pāhoa resident Gilbert Aguinaldo, a local Electrical and General Contractor, was discussing his vision for a congregate living space nearby, where people who have been displaced from nearby neighborhoods could continue to recover. On the other end of that conversation was Darryl Oliveira, Safety and Internal Control Manager at HPM Building Supply. Together, they approached Hope Services Hawaii, leasee of 14.5 acres directly below Sacred Heart Catholic Church, to pitch the idea to construct micro-structures there.
On Saturday, an estimated 200 volunteer contractors along with members of the Hawaii National Guard began construction to build the 20 unit project.
“That’s the beginning of a great, great community program,” said Mayor Kim, who was on hand on Saturday to witness the start of the project. “It’s the first time I felt really good inside because you see all of this energy. I know it’s the beginning and we have a long ways to go, but we’ll get there.”
*Click on the video above to view the full interview, which includes information on the emotional state of evacuees and some much needed funding to assist with the escalating situation faced by those impacted by the ongoing eruption.