Lava destroys 117 homes, everything in its path as it creeps toward ocean

The number of homes destroyed by Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island has jumped to 117 from 87, according to new figures released Monday by the Hawaii County Civil Defense. 

Spokeswoman Janet Snyder said lava has destroyed an estimated 20 to 40 homes in Kapoho, and that about a dozen people are trapped on the eastern tip of the island after fast-moving lava from the Kilauea volcano cut off all access to the rural community. 

Kapoho had been destroyed in 1960 by a separate Kilauea eruption. It took the community nearly six decades to recover from the blast, and today is largely made up of private homes and vacation rentals.

Authorities warned residents for days to leave the area as well as nearby Leilani Estates and Vacationland — but some people refused to go, saying they would not abandon their homes. 

Last week, Big Island Mayor Harry Kim declared a 17-block swatch of the state “off limits indefinitely,” and gave people 24 hours to evacuate. 

Those remaining in the mandatory evacuation area beyond the deadline were doing “so at their own risk, with the knowledge that emergency responders may not respond,” the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said.

Another problem popping up for authorities are lava chasers hoping to catch a front-row seat to the spectacular geological lava show. So far, up to 18 people have been arrested trying to sneak past guards to take a look at the lava oozing through neighborhoods and toward the ocean.  

The Hawaii Volcano Observatory reported that Fissure 8 is continuing to feed “a large channelized flow” along Highway 132. Fissure 8 continues to be the most active, with fountains of lava shooting as high as 220 feet.

Officials said Monday that volcanic gas emissions near Kilauea’s summit still remain high.

Janet Babb, geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey told Fox News: “I don’t think any of us are thinking this is winding down.”

She added: “The lava entering the ocean created a delta that entered the bay.”

Sunday marked the one-month anniversary of Kilauea’s recent eruption.

During the day, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake rattled the Kilauea summit, shooting an ash plume 8,000 feet into the air.

Brian Shiro, a supervisory geophysicist at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said there were 500 earthquakes in the summit area of Kilauea in a 24-hour period.  

Scientists are concerned about the earthquakes that hit Sunday at the summit and the several hundred tremors that followed; they expect more to occur.

Kyle Anderson of the USGS also cleared up Monday that the amount of magma that has left the summit is only a tiny fraction of what is still there.

On May 3, Kilauea began shooting ash plumes 30,000 feet into the air. Thick waves of lava seeped from fissures in the ground, destroying homes, choking off escape routes and knocking out power before creeping its way toward the ocean. As it hit the blue waters of the Pacific, it created a dangerous steam laced with hydrochloric acid and fine glass.

Thick “vog” — volcanic smog created by vapor, sulfur dioxide gas and carbon dioxide — blanketed a 2,400-acre zone, and just this week, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey warned of volcanic glass called “Pele’s hair” falling from the sky.

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