When Noah Friend and Shantel Pacarro returned to their home in Leilani Estates on Hawaii’s Big Island this week, the problem wasn’t the glowing lava from the Kilauea volcano that has threatened the region — it was large cracks in the ground, running right beneath their house.
But the land doesn’t really belong to them — it belongs to the goddess Pele, considered sacred by native Hawaiians, Pacarro said.
"We may pay land taxes and everything, but we don’t own it. She does. So if she wants to come home, then she’s going to come home," Pacarro told NBC News Wednesday. "And we accept that."
The threat of lava from fissures in the East Rift Zone on Hawaii's Big Island near Kilauea have forced nearly 2,000 people — including from Leilani Estates — to leave since eruptions began nearly three weeks ago. More than two dozen homes have been destroyed by lava, officials have said.
At the Friend family's home, huge cracks have opened in the ground, stretching across a road and up to and beneath the one-story house. A home that was built by Friends’ father, little by little, and one that he's lived in since the 1990s. Pacarro joined him in 2004 and now the family lives together with their two children. "I know for sure that this house and property probably will be condemned or no longer livable because of this crack," Friend said.
The cracks are now deeper and wider than when they first saw them. Pacarro said that she was worried the house will collapse.
"We're hoping it doesn't. That way, one day when all of this is over we can come home and bring our children home and they can see their house," she said.
Residents of Leilani Estates have been allowed to return at times since the eruptions began.
Kilauea is considered one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and has been erupting since 1983, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The current eruptive period began on May 3.
Kilauea's summit has seen explosive eruptions since then, sending plumes of ash thousands of feet into the air. Lava has crossed a coastal highway and into the Pacific Ocean, causing a phenomenon known as “laze,” and crept towards a geothermal plant in the Puna district. The plant provides 25 percent of the electricity to the Big Island.
No deaths have been reported in the current eruptions or earthquakes. One person suffered a leg injury after being struck by a "lava bomb."
Friend and Pacarro are resigned to the possibility of lasting damage to their home. Every time they return, the couple said they don’t know if it will still be there.
"It's kind of like, bittersweet," Friend said. "I know it’s kind of done, but you still have hope."
The family plans to rebuild, somewhere a little farther out from the area, but it depends on the price of property and what they can afford, Friend said. Their current home is not insured, as the cost was just too high, they said.
"It kind of means everything," Friend said of the home built by his father. "He passed it down to me, in the hopes I would pass it down to my kids, so that’s what I was hoping and planning."
"But after this, well, we’ll see," he said. "I'll just have to do what he did for me."