7 researchers evacuated from Pacific atoll as storm nears

HONOLULU (AP) — Officials have evacuated seven researchers from a remote atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a powerful hurricane headed their way.

The acting superintendent of the Papahanaumokuakea (pah-pah-HAH’-now-moh-koo-ah-cay-ah) Marine National Monument said Wednesday a research vessel picked up the seven from French Frigate Shoals.

The atoll is about 500 miles (800 kilometers) northwest of Honolulu and in the path of Hurricane Walaka.

Kate Toniolo says the researchers were studying and monitoring Hawaiian monk seals and Hawaiian green sea turtles.

Toniolo says they were due to leave the island mid-month, so they left earlier than scheduled. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel Hiialakai (hee-ee-ah-lah-kai) picked them up.

On Monday the Coast Guard evacuated four workers from a national wildlife refuge on Johnston Atoll before Walaka passed that island.

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