The threat of the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is driving away millions of dollars in tourism and damaging the local economy.
Revenue losses have risen to $222 million when including funds that normally go to the National Park and to the 2,000 jobs indirectly impacted.
The Hawaii Tourism Board says bookings between May and July dropped about 50% since the volcano started to spew out lava on May 3. Cruise ships have also cancelled visits to the Big Island and hotel rooms remain vacant despite a drop in rates.
The closure of the state’s top tourist destination is costing the island $166 million, according to the National Park Service.
Tourism is a major economic engine for Hawaii. It's the largest industry on the Big Island and the largest employer, accounting for 30% of private sector jobs in 2017, according to the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.
Hawaiians are scrambling to prevent a catastrophe as lava from the Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano is approaching a power plant facility, and officials fear that it could trigger the release of toxic gas.
United States Geological Survey’s Jim Kauahikaua told Fox News’ Jeff Paul that it seems there are no signs of this volcanic activity slowing down soon.
“This is still the early part of the eruption, especially this second phase, which are very fluid stuff and usually an eruption, the first two or three days, the eruption rate is quite high and then it will tail off,” he said.
The Puna Geothermal plant harnesses energy from the volcano using steam and hot liquid captured in underground wells.
The National Guard has Blackhawk helicopters on standby should anyone become stranded and need rescuing.