Lava flowing from the Hawaiian volcano of Kilauea has been threatening homes for months but miraculously spared the tombstone of one particularly grateful family. Aiko Sato, who has tended over the family plot for years, says it feels like a miracle. The extraordinary story comes as President Obama signs a disaster declaration to help the thousands of affected people.
According to the Associated Press, Aiko visited Pahoa Japanese Cemetery on October 23rd to say a final goodbye to the family headstone. She said she made peace with losing it to the Hawaiian volcano, but it seems that her farewell was premature.
A scientist working at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory had a chance encounter with the family and recalled seeing the family’s headstone still standing in a “sea of black lava.” The Hawaii Volcano Observatory normally does not release such photos out of respect, but they explained how this exception happened in a statement.
“During their conversation, the scientist recalled that he had just seen the family headstone the night before and was able to provide information about its status. Days later, while looking through HVO’s photos, he realized that this particular image showed the Sato headstone and offered to provide a copy to the family.”
Sato’s aunt, 83-year-old Eiko Kajiyama, hugged the scientist who showed them the photo. Kajiyama has her two siblings who died as infants buried at the site along with the urns of her parents. She believes that the headstone’s survival feels like the work of Pele, the legendary goddess of volcanoes according to Hawaiian myth.
Aiko Sato is relieved to see that the gravestone is still intact, but knows the situation is far from over.
“I feel like it’s a miracle, I know subsequent breakouts could cover the grave but at least I know it survived like a first round.”
The recent flow started on June 27th, when a new lava vent opened in Kilauea volcano. The lava is currently threatening the main road for the rural Hawaiian village of Pahoa, which has about 900 residents.
83 members of the Hawaiian National Guard have been deployed to the area and will receive federal aid now that the president has signed a disaster declaration for public assistance. According to Reuters, the National Guard is hard at work assisting with security and establishing roadblocks.
In the meantime, Kajiyama is bracing for the worst even though her home is not in the path of the Hawaiian volcano.
“I’m just waiting day by day. With the lava, you don’t know what’s happening.”
[Image Credit: Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons]