East Island: Remote Hawaiian island wiped out by devastating hurricane

A remote Hawaiian island that provided a vital habitat for endangered species of seals and turtles has been washed away by a powerful hurricane.

East Island, which was only about half a mile long and 122m (400ft) wide, was wiped out by Hurricane Walaka earlier this month.

The category three hurricane, with wind speeds of up to 125mph, came within 70 miles of the west of the island.

Satellite images taken after the hurricane showed that it has almost entirely vanished.

The island had been part of the French Frigate Shoals, an atoll in the far western reaches of the Hawaiian archipelago.

Its sinking threatens the future of two endangered species - Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles - for whom the island was a vital habitat.

There are thought to be just 1,400 individual Hawaiian monk seals, meaning they are classified as critically endangered.

Many of them raised their young on the island.

Green sea turtles are also threatened while seabirds such as albatrosses, whose young were often preyed upon by
circling tiger sharks, also depended on the island.

Dr Chip Fletcher, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Hawaii, told the Honolulu Civil Beat: "I had a holy
**** moment, thinking 'Oh my God, it's gone.'

"It's one more chink in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled."

Officials say they will not know the extent of the damage until they can get out there.