ROD THOMPSON / RTHOMPSON@STARBULLETIN.COM
'U'i Pai, standing, and her friend Dana Keawe sold water, juice and other items Saturday at a table in front of Pai's house. Advancing lava has since destroyed the house.
Lava flow chars house as heat oozes eastward
HILO » Lava destroyed the homestead of Michael and 'U'i Pai Tuesday night or early yesterday morning, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory confirmed yesterday.
The Pai home was the last remnant of the small community at Kapaahu, wiped out in 1986.
Michael Pai was working at a construction site on Oahu when it happened, and his wife, 'U'i, stayed with friends, Mayor Harry Kim said.
An approaching flow had already forced Hawaii County on Monday to shut down a trail leading to a lava viewing site beyond the Pais' house.
With only charred pieces of the house left yesterday, lava continued oozing past the site, eastward on a segment of Highway 130.
Viewers now hike to the spot where lava is slowly flowing on the old road, then take a separate half-mile trail to get a distant glimpse of lava flowing into the sea, about three-fourths of a mile to the west.
The county estimated 1,000 to 1,200 people visited the viewing site Tuesday, down from more than 8,000 who hiked to it when it opened on Saturday.
Floyd Quihano, Michael Pai's uncle, said people have lived in the area of Kapaahu for at least 200 years, perhaps even longer.
Father Damien de Veuster, later to become the priest at the Molokai leprosy colony, had a small church at Kapaahu, probably in the 1860s. The ruins of a masonry church, built there after Damien moved on, were covered by lava during the destruction of Kapaahu in the 1980s.
Quihano's family moved to Kapaahu in the 1940s, he said. Pai's grandmother Daisy was living there in the 1950s, he said. The little village had no more than a dozen homes above Highway 130.
Below the highway, surrounding the masonry church that had come to be called the Damien church, lay a scattering of more houses in Pacific Paradise Oceanfront Estates.
It was all destroyed by lava in the 1980s, except for an encampment on high ground established by Michael Pai's brother John after he came back from the Vietnam War, Quihano said.
Later, their brother Jason took over the encampment. Michael followed, giving it some permanence with a collection of small, partially completed wooden structures.
Quihano bulldozed one of the family properties last year, intending to rebuild a solid home. Lava flows returned to the area before he could begin construction.