Retiree, 76, Forced to Flee Hawaii Volcano Evacuation Zone After Initially Refusing to Leave

Volcano evacuation
Edwin Montoya's home is just downhill from volcanic fissures that have wreaked havoc on the Big Island, but he doesn't intend to budge an inch. APTN

Edwin Montoya's home is in the mandatory evacuation zone, but he intended to stay put.

Edwin Montoya's home is just downhill from volcanic fissures that have wreaked havoc on the Big Island, but he wasn't going anywhere until a mandatory evacuation alert forced him out.

"If it happens, if it blows its top and I'm there at the time — I'm 76-years-old — I've lived a good life," Montoya said earlier this week of the very real possibility the ongoing eruption of Kilauea could affect his family's farm in Pahoa.

Experts warn there's no indication when the volcano, one of the world's most active, might stop spewing lava or how far it might spread. Footage from the area shows homes and cars being eaten by molten rock.

In addition to the threat posed by molten lava, toxic gases can overwhelm and kill a person with little warning.

"It was really cloudy with a lot of sulfur in the air," Montoya said. "It hurt my throat, it was pretty miserable."

But Montoya remained in the evacuation zone nonetheless, tending to animals and keeping an eye out for looters.

Evacuations in the eruption zone could take weeks.

Authorities are allowing some evacuees to return briefly each day to gather medicine, pets, and other necessities.

Meanwhile, about 24 hours of relative quiet led some to believe the worst was over, until two new volcanic fissures opened Tuesday, prompting Hawaii County to issue a cellphone alert ordering stragglers in Lanipuna Gardens to get out immediately.

That alert and a visit from police officers finally convinced Montoya to flee to safety.

"I'm in my truck right now on my way up the road," he told The Associated Press. "The police came down here and made me."

Hawaii Gov. David Ige told evacuees he has called the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to tell officials that he believes the state will need help in dealing with the volcano on the Big Island.

There are 14 lava-and-gas producing fissures in Leilani Estates, after the two new ones formed Tuesday.