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Hawaii Officials Welcome Visitors Despite Volcano

Hawaii Officials Welcome Visitors Despite VolcanoHawaii Officials Welcome Visitors Despite Volcano

While warnings that Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could shoot boulders and ash out of its summit crater are prompting people to rethink their plans to visit the Big Island, local tourism officials are hoping travelers will recognize the island is ready to welcome them as most of its space is free of volcanic hazards.

Hawaii officials have had a busy month pleading with travelers to keep their plans even as dramatic images of natural disasters afflicting the islands have bombarded televisions and social media feeds, AP reported.

In April, floods on Kauai Island made travelers nervous. Then last week, it was Kilauea volcano sending 1,200 degree Celsius lava bursting through cracks into people's backyards in the Leilani Estates neighborhood. Then as Kilauea's magma shifted underground, a magnitude-6.9 earthquake rocked the Big Island.

Since the quake, there have been frequent aftershocks. More than a dozen fissures oozing lava have opened in the ground. Adding to the distress, of the 36 structures destroyed, 26 were homes.

And now, scientists are warning that an explosive eruption may occur at the summit crater within weeks.

  No Threat to Lives  

Tina Neal, the scientist-in-charge of the US Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory, said geologists do not expect the summit eruption to be life-threatening so long as people stay out of the national park.

"Volcano and other nearby communities may be showered by pea-sized fragments or dusted with nontoxic ash but they aren't expected to get hit by large boulders," she said.

Robert Hughes, the owner of Aloha Junction Bed and Breakfast in Volcano, said he has had "tons" of cancellations since Wednesday when geologists first warned of the explosive eruption.

But Hughes, a resident of the village of some 2,500 people, expects he will soon hear from adventurers and photographers who want to see the eruption up close.

"I'm not too worried about it because I've lived here so long and I've seen it go through lots of different episodes," Hughes said.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park's decision to close Friday due to the risk of an explosive eruption will discourage travelers, said Janet Coney, the office manager at Kilauea Lodge, an inn in Volcano.

The lodge, which has 12 rooms and 4 cottages, has had a handful of cancellations. Coney is anticipating more depending on what happens.

The CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the agency that markets Hawaii to the world, said Kilauea is being monitored around the clock to provide the public with the best information.

But George Szigeti noted that the Big Island is "immense" and there are large parts of the island unaffected by the volcano.

 

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