After Lava Destroys More Homes, Hawaii Increases Penalties for Not Following Evacuation Orders
Gov. David Ige has signed a second emergency proclamation, focusing on housing needs and beefing up violations of emergency rules to criminal penalties during the ongoing Kilauea eruption.
"The lava flow has expanded and overrun more communities as it's advanced, and earthquakes continue to rock the area. Hundreds of structures have been destroyed, including residential homes. I'm working closely with Mayor (Harry) Kim and FEMA to develop a housing plan, and this supplemental proclamation gives the county more options for suitable shelters and rapid rehousing efforts," Ige said in a news release.
In addition to making state lands available for housing, measures that can be taken under the supplemental proclamation include creating guidelines for providing accommodations and shelter, and identifying locations and facilities suitable for relocation of evacuees.
The proclamation also sets criminal penalties for interfering with emergency personnel, failing to comply with directions of emergency personnel, failing to evacuate, violating curfew and operation of drones.
"As the size of the affected area has grown, so have the challenges of keeping the residents and their property safe. We've had people who refuse to comply with officials who are trying to control access into extremely hazardous areas, putting themselves and our first responders at risk. The combined federal, state and county efforts are focused on the health and safety of our community. The emergency rules we are adopting will increase criminal penalties for those who do not obey emergency officials," said Ige.
Puna state Rep. Joy San Buenaventura said repairs have been fast-tracked on 14 vacant housing units, which will provide shelter for displaced residents from lava evacuation zones.
"Our neighbors are suffering, and it is up to us to do everything we can to help," said San Buenaventura. "I'm asking everyone to keep their eyes and ears open to any possible housing solutions for those in need. We have to be creative and we have to act quickly."
According to a news release, San Buenaventura discovered on an initial visit to the Keaau Community Center there were no showers on-site and no transportation to the nearest public showers in Hilo, 8 miles away.
She said she spoke with the manager at Hale o Puna, a federally funded senior housing facility across the street, about any vacant apartment showers that could be used for senior or disabled evacuees.
"I found out there were 14 vacant units, but they were in disrepair for more than a year and six would require major construction to be used," San Buenaventura said.
After inspection the units were determined to be structurally sound.
San Buenaventura said she is pleased that Gov. David Ige and the Hawaii Public Housing Authority recently announced that the 14 units have been fast-tracked for seniors.
"This is just the start toward more permanent housing relocation for those whose homes were destroyed," she said.
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