UNLV grad helps Hawaii families displaced by Kilauea eruption

Updated May 20, 2018 - 12:17 am

HILO, Hawaii — Late Friday, Jessica Sagawa caught her first glimpse of lava in the distance.

It was glowing bright orange in the hills about 30 miles away, sputtering high above the small constellation of lights in Hilo, the largest city on the state’s biggest island.

“I was amazed,” said Sagawa, a 25-year-old UNLV graduate who grew up in Hilo.

“It was an eye-opener. Like, this thing is huge.”

More than 50,000 native Hawaiians call Las Vegas home, according to the Las Vegas Hawaiian Civic Club.

Upon graduating, Sagawa left the “Ninth Island” and returned to Hilo, where she works at Bank of Hawaii and sees her family every day.

The ongoing Kilauea eruptions have devastated a few small communities on the east side of the Big Island that make up about 5 percent of the island’s population.

At least 40 structures have been lost, many of them homes. Three shelters are housing the hundreds who were forced to flee.

Sagawa has encountered many evacuees at her bank. She has set up safe deposit boxes so that those affected can safely store valuables and documents. She has also printed off several families’ bank statements, which serve as proof of residency so they can re-enter their neighborhoods through a handful of National Guard checkpoints. Some people have returned to their homes to gather belongings while they can.

For some families, though, there was nothing left to save. A few requested to withdraw all their money and close their bank accounts because they needed to move, Sagawa said. Others walked in with hopes of starting again, asking Sagawa for a list of recently foreclosed homes and pleading for an affordable miracle.

“When they start tearing up, we start putting ourselves in their shoes,” Sagawa said. “I give them long hugs. The culture here is very caring. It’s an emotional time.”

Effects on tourism

Just as Sagawa grew uneasy seeing the warm glow of lava in the distance, many tourists are anxious about visiting the Big Island, known for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which had more than 2 million visitors in 2017.

That worry is hurting businesses on the island.

“At least one company has closed its doors and laid off approximately 20 employees,” Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Saturday. “All activity companies that had exclusive tours utilizing Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are adjusting and creating alternative tours to keep their businesses going.”

All flights to the island are operating normally, and air arrivals this month are keeping pace with past years, Birch said. Last year, the island had more than 11,200 visitors from Las Vegas, he said.

“On the other hand, we are seeing a substantial loss in business from the cruise lines that chose to skip the port of Hilo or Kona, or both,” Birch said.

Each port call brings an estimated $175,000 to the island’s economy. Based on port calls missed after the recent eruption, the island faces losses exceeding $1.2 million.

“It’s really too early to tell what the longer-term impacts of the eruption might be to the island of Hawaii’s tourism industry and overall economy,” Birch said. “Right now, our priority continues to be educating visitors and our industry partners that the volcanic activity is taking place in a very isolated part of Hawaii Island’s east side.

“There is absolutely no reason at this time for travelers to change or alter their leisure or business plans.”

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-8301. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
Frontier jet safely returns to Las Vegas after losing engine piece
Frontier jet safely returns to Las Vegas after losing engine piece. (@FlightAlerts_)
Park Service plans ahead for lower lake levels
National Park Service releases new plans to maintain access to the water as Lake Mead continues to shrink.
Women claim abuse at Florence McClure Women's Correctional Facility
Current and ex-inmates, including Merry West, are suing Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Facility, claiming abuse and inadequate medical care. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Butte County Sheriff's Office Body Cam Footage
Bodycam video from Butte County (Calif.) Sheriff's Office Deputy Aaron Parmley, who was in Paradise November 8 helping with evacuations. (Butte County Sheriff's Office)
NDOT construction blasting along State Route 106
NDOT construction blasting along State Route 160, near Mt. Potosi Road, in Clark County as part of a $59 million, 6-mile-long highway widening project that began this summer. (Nevada Department of Transportation)
Car crashes into Papa Murphy's Pizza shop
A driver crashed a car into a western Las Vegas Valley pizza shop on Tuesday morning, police said. (Joe Stanhibel/Special to Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Low-lake-level pumping station nears completion
Barnard Construction and the Southern Nevada Water Authority give one last tour before the new low-lake-level pumping station is activated.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like