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Kilauea eruption caused $94M loss near national park

Lava shoots into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of the Kilauea volcano near Pahoa, Hawaii, last year. AP file photo

HILO (AP) — Communities near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park lost up to $94 million in economic benefit last year compared to the previous year due to the eruption of Kilauea Volcano, officials said.

The National Park Service found the Big Island park had 1.1 million visitors who spent $94.1 million in nearby communities in 2018, while more than 2 million visited in 2017 and spent $166 million, The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported Sunday.

Spending by park visitors in 2018 supported 1,040 jobs in the area and produced a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $123 million. The greater spending in 2017 supported 2,020 area jobs and produced an economic benefit of about $222.4 million, officials said.

The eruption that began in May 2018 destroyed more than 700 homes. Over four months, Kilauea buried the area in up to 80 feet of now-hardened lava.

“It’s not surprising to see a decrease in visitor spending during 2018 since most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was closed for 134 days due to unsafe and unpredictable volcanic activity,” acting Superintendent Rhonda Loh said in a written statement.

The economic data was part of an analysis of spending by visitors to national parks conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists and the National Park Service.

Throughout the nation in 2018, 318 million visitors spent $20.2 billion in communities within 60 miles of a national park, primarily on lodging and food. The spending supported 329,000 jobs and produced a cumulative $40.1 billion benefit to the U.S. economy, according to the analysis.