Lava from Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Menaces 50 Homes

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As many as 50 homes were in the path of a stream of lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano Tuesday night, and civil defense officials said they planned to issue evacuation notices before nightfall.

The lava flow has moved about 100 yards closer to occupied homes since Tuesday morning, and it now has 40 to 50 of them in its direct path, emergency management officials said. The front of the flow "has entered a private residential property," Hawaii County said in an update.

Many residents in the path of the molten rock — including a couple who live in a house closest to the leading edge of the flow — have already packed up and left, Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said. Officials have said there is no way to stop the river of dark ooze from inundating Pahoa, a town of nearly 1,000 people.

The 2,000-degree lava has been on a slow-motion march toward Pahoa and the surrounding rural region of Puna for just over four months since a vent in the Pu'u O'o crater on Kilauea’s eastern rift began belching smoke and lava. The flow advanced about 275 yards from Sunday morning to Monday morning, snaking northeast at about 10 to 15 yards per hour. The river of lava swallowed up a Buddhist cemetery Saturday on its path to Pahoa.

Kilauea is among the world's most active volcanoes. It has has been erupting continuously since 1983. Red-hot lava flows have ravaged nearby residences in years past — including roughly 200 homes in the 1990s.


— M. Alex Johnson and Daniel Arkin