Buddhists Leave as Lava Nears Precious Hawaii Wetland

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The creeping menace of lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano continued its inexorable journey Monday, reaching within a few hundred yards of the state's largest lowland wet forest, government geologists said. The lava flow from a June 27 eruption was almost 11 miles long, having traveled the length of four football fields since Saturday — prompting the members of a Japanese Buddhist association to begin packing up and moving.

Hawaii declared a state of emergency this month, and civil defense officials said there's no indication the eruption is going to stop any time soon. The lava flow is now approaching the outer perimeter of Wao Kele Forest Reserve, which is home to numerous endangered species and was saved from geothermal energy harvesting only eight years ago after a 20-year battle by environmental groups. The preserve is part of the watershed that feeds the Big Island town of Pahoa, where leaders of Pahoa Nikkei Jin Kai were advised to "move early, get things out ahead of time just in case," Craig Shimoda, president of the Buddhist community, told NBC station KHNL of Honolulu. Among the items members began moving Sunday was the Butsudan, or altar, which arrived in Pahoa from Japan in 1931, Shimoda said.



— M. Alex Johnson