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Byron Shire
February 2, 2023

As the lava continues to flow residents look to their future

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My sister Sophia and I overlooking the lava flow from Mauna Kea. Photo Nicolette Douvris.

Aslan Shand

George and Stephanie Douvris with their children Nicolette, Sophia and John lived in Tuntable Falls from 2008 till 2010 where they reopened the Tuntable Store hosting monthly dinners with all sorts of entertainment from musicians and performers. Nicolette also spent three years working with local children at the Byron Busy Kids childcare centre.

But they had no luck getting Australian citizenship and eventually moved back to Hawaii where they were able to buy a beautiful 20 acres.

The whole family immediately fell in love with the property. It was already loaded with acres of sugar cane, giant avocado trees, banana patches, jackfruit forests and other tropical lusciousness.

‘We have always gardened on a smaller scale and this was the perfect opportunity to put our skills and love into a place we could finally call home,’ said Nicolette as she recalled the farm that has recently been devastated by the eruptions of lava on Hawaii’s Big Island.

George and Stephanie Douvris with their children Nicolette, Sophia and John on their farm in Hawaii before it was destroyed by lava. Photo supplied.

Since buying the property in 2013 they created an organic permaculture farm and planted over 200 different varieties of tropical fruit trees. But on May 3 lava broke out in the area of their farm and within a week their road access had been cut.

‘Not long after a raging river of lava came right up to the land and the heat set our family house on fire. Since we can’t get home we’ve had to rely on aerial footage to see the status of the rest of the farm. Unfortunately the once luscious green jungle has died and turned brown from the toxic sulphur dioxide gases that continue to be released from the flow. As much as we want to return to check on things, it’s just not safe yet,’ said Nicolette.

The flow has already claimed 600 homes and hundreds of acres of land. Scientists say that the flow is pumping out about 100 cubic metres per second – which is the equivalent of about 98,000 litres or enough to fill 12 commercial dump trucks per second. This amount of lava could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every 25 seconds.

Nicolette’s brother John was the last one to leave the farm and they were able to retrieve some valuables and family photos.

‘A giant 500 foot crater that borders the property filled up entirely with lava overnight and my brother had to be airlifted out as the lava had flowed over the road.’

Though Nicolette and her family are unable to return to their property Nicolette has been able to join in with international media crews who are escorted by the National Guard into ‘less dangerous’ areas affected by the lava flows.

‘The general public and most residents are not allowed in owing to safety reasons. We need to have on full face respirators, SO2 detectors, hard hats and have safety briefings upon every entry,’ Nicolette explained.

‘As you can imagine there are many concerned and frustrated residents are upset they can’t get in to see what’s left of their homes, if there is even that. So I have been using this opportunity to photograph as much as I can and post images for the public to see.

Nicolette Douvris on location with international media crews photographing the impact of the lava flows on Hawaii’s Big Island. Photo supplied.

‘I plan to continue doing this for as long as I can or until my savings run out. The amount of gratitude I’ve received back from people has been heartwarming.

‘I’ve been offering my services free and have a list of people who have given me their addresses to check in on their homes since they are denied entry. Being able to assist the community in this way has helped me deal better with the stress that this disaster has brought upon us.

‘I miss our home so much and I keep praying for a safe return soon. But with a 12-kilometre raging lava river gushing out non-stop it’s hard to know when that will happen.’

Nicolette and her family are raising money in the hope that they will be able to rebuild their home and farm once the lava flows settle down. You can support them through their GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/help-rebuild-our-parent039s-home.

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