Hawaii volcano lava flows destroy 117 Big Island homes

Lava from Hawaii's erupting Kilauea volcano has destroyed 117 homes as of Monday, according to officials.

Public warned to avoid dangerous plume of steam laced with hydrochloric acid and fine glass particles

A plume of volcanic emissions rises from a lava fountain during eruptions of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. (Terray Sylvester/Reuters)

Lava from Hawaii's erupting Kilauea volcano has destroyed more than 100 homes in a rural Big Island district. 

As of Monday, lava has burned down 117 homes, said Hawaii County spokesperson Janet Snyder. On Friday, the count was at 87 homes. 

She didn't have an estimate for how many other homes are threatened. 

Authorities since last week had been urging residents to leave before lava spewing from a volcanic fissure at the eastern foot of Kilauea reached the area.

The final phase of the evacuation was carried out late on Friday and early on Saturday by fire and police department personnel, with help from the Hawaii National Guard and public works teams, county civil defence Snyder told Reuters by email.

This satellite image captured Sunday shows advancing lava flows as they approach Kapoho Bay and the Vacationland residential neighbourhood. (DigitalGlobe/Associated Press)

An estimated 500 people live in the Kapoho area, but Snyder said it was not immediately clear how many residents, if any, had chosen to stay behind.

Another 2,000 people have been evacuated from Leilani Estates, an area farther west where dozens of homes have been devoured or cut off by rivers of lava streaming over the landscape since May 3.

Three people had to be airlifted to safety on Sunday morning as lava threatened an isolated area where they had become trapped, the National Guard said. 

Plume of hydrochloric acid, steam

Helicopter footage from the U.S. Geological Survey on Monday showed lava from one fissure entering the ocean at Kapoho Bay. 

Scientists said a laze plume was blowing inland from the ocean entry but dissipating quickly. Laze is formed when hot lava hits the ocean, reacts with sea water and sends steam containing hydrochloric acid and fine glass particles in the air. 

Officials warned the public to stay away from the plume because it can irritate skin and eyes and make it difficult to breathe. 

Lava also destroyed a freshwater lake, boiling away all of the water in it, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported Saturday.

Lava illuminates the sky above Leilani Estates on Sunday. Lava has cut off access to some roads, leading to a series of evacuations and rescues. (Terray Sylvester/Reuters)

There have been various arrests of people forcing their way through blocked areas. Police on Monday said a 62-year-old man sped through a checkpoint near an intersection where lava was approaching. He faces charges that include refusing to evacuate and reckless driving. Police said a 55-year-old man was arrested last week after he circumvented a traffic checkpoint and crashed his vehicle into a hardened lava flow.

The month-long eruption has claimed as much as a half of a forest reserve that's home to native birds and trees that have already been declining because of disease, state officials said.

With files from Reuters


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