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After eruption, residents fled with little — and didn't know what they'd return home to

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Posted at 4:53 AM, May 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-04 03:34:12-04

With tears in his eyes, one Leilani Estates resident left his home — not knowing if he'd ever see it again. 

"When I bought here 14 years ago, I knew that this day might eventually come, but I had no idea the reality of (it) ... It's sinking in now, for sure," he said. 

With his family safely evacuating and his possessions packed in a box, he headed out of the subdivision.

"My family and my pets are safe. That's what I really care about. I mean, the rest is just stuff. We can make more money and get more stuff. My family is safe. That's the main thing," he said.

He was one of more than 1,700 residents forced to evacuate as lava crept out of the Earth's surface Thursday afternoon, shutting down roads and sending alarm throughout lower Puna.

As uncertainty grows into the night, officials want to remind residents to stay calm, but be ready to evacuate.

"The best thing they can do right now is stay out of the area. It's not a stable situation at all," Talmadge Magno of Big Island's Civil Defense said. "This is not over, it could escalate at any time. We don't know how this is going to go."

Around 10 p.m. Thursday, officials said they believe the flow of lava has stopped, but additional eruptions may happen unexpectedly.

They are also monitoring high levels of sulfur dioxide in the air near the break out of lava.

"People should be prepared to leave have a bag packed and all of their medications they need," Hawaii County Council woman Eileen Ohara said. "If they have pets they should be have crates ready for the pets."'

With two emergency proclamations in effect for Hawaii County, the situation remains unpredictable and ongoing.

"(This is) different from being in a national park. This is somebody’s subdivision. It's impacting their residence, their community, so kind of honor that and respect that and help us out by staying out of there," Magno added.

This story may be updated.

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