Kilauea volcanic lava flow slows, still attracts thousands

Sunday, July 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VOLCANO, Hawaii (AP) _ Despite warnings against the danger of noxious fumes and unstable ground, Kilauea Volcano's fiery lava drew hundreds of spectators again Sunday.

Tourists and residents have made lava gazing their nightly vigil, their flashlights competing with the orange and pink glow of the molten rock.

Kilauea has been erupting for nearly 19 years, but the latest phase is the most dramatic in years. It has caused a 3,600 acre forest and brush fire.

Signs warn of danger in the steam cloud created as the lava pours into the sea, in the instability of the hot crust atop lava flowing underground, and in fumes from the lava and burning road asphalt.

People climbed over old lava flows to view the glowing mass and its fiery entry into the Pacific. Late-night visitors have increased in recent days.

``It's the beauty of the earth being born right here,'' said Michael Matsumoto of Oahu.

Several spectators arrived at the sea entry before dawn Sunday, including residents David Jordan and Steven and Sandra Young.

All described themselves as ``lava junkies.'' Jordan said he came at 1 a.m. and stayed until after dawn to watch the light show.

``We saw Pele at her best,'' said Cathy Donaldson of Pearl Harbor, who was at the lava flow with her daughter, Hailey, 4. Hawaiian folklore says Pele, goddess of fire, resides in Kilauea.

Jenny Haggerty and her 12-year-old daughter, Kristen, of Poughquaq, N.Y., turned back from the heat and fumes, covering their faces with scarves.

``Hopefully, the rest of the family won't be in the obituaries,'' Jenny Haggerty said. ``I got a little nervous when I saw the lava bubbling up in front of us.''

The lava is creating new black-sand beaches along Big Island's southeast shore and extending Volcanoes National Park by several acres each week. The latest massive breakout of lava from Kilauea began on May 12 and reached the ocean last week.