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‘It’s happening now’: Helppuna.com offering Puna residents in lava’s path way to find refuge for their animals

Updated: 
September 3, 2014 - 10:47am

While Hawaii County Civil Defense announced its plans to give homeowners at least five days notice should evacuation be necessary because of the June 27 lava flow, that might not leave much time for residents looking to relocate large numbers of animals.

“This is a big agricultural area. People have horses, sheep, goats, chickens … they need help with evacuating,” said Sydney Singer, director of The Good Shepherd Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting animals, the environment and human health. “People are thinking ahead.”

On Monday, Singer launched helppuna.com, a free, online classified ad system that helps pair animal owners with people elsewhere on the island who are willing to provide space for animals, or equipment to aid in their movement.

Jason Moniz, a veterinarian with the state Department of Agriculture, is working to help area residents with livestock relocation, said Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira.

“He is working with the USDA, the parks department and DOPA on finding paddocks, pastures and accommodations for different livestock,” he said. “We’ve asked (the public) to be as proactive as possible because they don’t want to be caught at the last minute. They’ve been very responsive and reactive to the info we’ve shared with them.”

As area residents continue to work out evacuation plans, Civil Defense officials and scientists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are keeping a close eye on the lava emanating from the flank of Puu Oo on Kilauea’s east rift zone.

Oliveira said he saw during a morning overflight of the flow Tuesday “very little surface activity, but there appeared to be subsurface activity.”

“The plume has moved an additional 100 yards further downslope,” he said. “It is still not an imminent threat though.”

Oliveira added that his office recently received information that some tour operators might have been offering tours out to the lava, which is currently in a restricted area.

“We’re concerned about that, and we’ve shared this with police,” he said. “It’s not safe to be out there. You can’t get close enough to see anything, and people are driving through the Kaohe subdivision as people who live there are trying to make their plans. We’re asking the community to stay out. It’s dangerous, and it will infringe on the activities and lifestyle of the people in the subdivision.”

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.