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Hawaii lava creeps within yards of 1st home in fiery, slow-moving doom

Lava from Kilauea volcano was some 70 yards from the nearest house on Tuesday, but the big question on the Big Island was when the inevitable will happen.

Officials have placed the area on an evacuation advisory, meaning residents could be asked to leave at a moment’s notice to avoid the oncoming lava, the county Civil Defense Agency announced.

Pahoa Village Road between Apa’a Street and the Post Office Road remained closed Tuesday morning and access was limited to area residents. In addition, civil defense and public safety personnel announced that they will operate around the clock to observe the flow activity.

The dark and flaming ooze has moved through the countryside in what seems to be an inexorable creep.

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“Everybody, including myself, is quite nervous,” Rod Macland told KITV-TV. “We don’t know. We can’t see the future. The flow does what the flow does.”

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said the lava has already crossed the outskirts of town and is expected to reach the first houses as soon as Tuesday.

The lava event began at the end of June and has moved in fits and starts in the last four months. Kilauea has been erupting for 31 years but the current fracture, or vent, threatens more than 950 people living in the area about 20 miles southwest of Hilo.

As of the Monday posting by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the flow was averaging between seven to 10 yards an hour. But the fiery march had been slowed.

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Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Frank Trusdell said the lava had picked up speed as it flowed downhill, but once the land flattened out in a pasture, the lava slowed — at least for the moment.

During Kilauea’s eruption, Trusdell said, the volcano has emitted about 350,000 square meters of lava a day. The new vent is emitting far less — about 100,000 square meters a day.

But the lava is moving through well-defined topography that is keeping it on a more concentrated path.

Oliveira said authorities were prepared to issue an evacuation order when necessary, but were sensitive to the emotional trauma victims faced.

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“As with past flows, our policy is to let people remain in their property until the last possible moment,” he said. “Many of these residents have lived in their homes for generations. We want to give people every opportunity for closure, to document the event for insurance purposes, as well as family history, and to respect the grieving process in this difficult time.”

nation@latimes.com


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