MAUNA LOA, Hawaii — A former Vancouver resident who owns a tea farm near the Kilauea volcano says her small Hawaiian community has been traumatized since molten lava began spewing several days ago.
Eliah Halpenny says she and her husband heard about some activity with the volcano before the lava began to flow last Thursday.
"We climbed up on the roof — this is before the real shaking started — and we could see this big red, black plume coming out of (the crater)," said Halpenny, who owns the tea farm with her husband and has lived in Hawaii for 17 years.
The farm is about 25 kilometres away from a neighbourhood that has been covered with molten rock and toxic gas.
Halpenny hasn't witnessed the destruction, but she has seen smoke rising from the area.
"It's pretty scary. It really is," she said, adding that she feels lucky to live uphill from lava flow.
More than two dozen homes have been destroyed and about 2,000 people have been forced to flee the area.
The volcanic eruption also set off hundreds of earthquakes, including a magnitude-6.9 quake on Friday that sent various items crashing down around Halpenny's home.
She isn't sure whether she should return things to their place.
"I don't really know what to do other than sit on tenterhooks. I think it's going to get worse," said Halpenny, who previously lived in Vancouver for about three decades.
There's no indication when the lava flow might stop or how far it could spread. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey expect the flow to continue until more magma is drained from the system.
Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes and has been erupting continuously since 1983.
Halpenny said she's lived through earthquakes before, but this volcanic eruption has been terrifying.
"No matter what earthquake you're in, once it passes a certain point, it's so unnerving. There's nothing to hold on to. You're just moving, everything around you is moving," she said.
The area where the eruption is taking place is remote and the community is small, Halpenny said.
She's reached out to friends who live in the neighbourhoods most affected, offering a place to stay, and she said she'll continue looking for ways to help.
For now, though, people in the area remain shaken. Workers at her farm don't want to climb scaffolding or ladders and everyone seems "jangled," Halpenny said.
"Every time we hear the walls creak or even the dog scratches a flea, everyone gets all jumpy again," she said.
— By Gemma Karstens-Smith. With files from The Associated Press.
The Canadian Press