KAILUA-KONA Hawaii (Reuters) - A menacing stream of lava that has been burning grass and overrunning a cemetery on its path toward a village on Hawaii’s Big Island has crossed onto a residential property where it threatened to consume its first home, officials said on Tuesday.
The slow-moving flow from the continuously erupting Kilauea volcano has been advancing on the town of Pahoa for weeks, and residents in its path have been told to prepare for evacuation.
“The flow front is currently moving in a northeast direction and has entered a private residential property,” Hawaii County Civil Defense officials said in a statement, adding the lava had advanced about 90 yards (metres) since Monday morning.
The home on the property risks becoming the first destroyed by the lava, which officials said was advancing about 5 yards an hour toward Pahoa village, a historic former sugar plantation in the east of the Big Island consisting of small shops and homes, with a population of about 800 people.
The lava menacing Pahoa first bubbled out of the Kilauea volcano on June 27, then came to a standstill in September before resuming its meandering trudge several weeks ago, sometimes triggering methane explosions.
As lava drew closer to the town, education officials said they would close an endangered elementary school on Wednesday and temporarily shutter four more schools on Thursday.
Crews have been building temporary access roads and trying to protect Highway 130, a route traveled by as many as 10,000 cars a day. Two other roads have been closed, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi’s office said.
The Kilauea volcano has erupted from its Pu’u O’o vent since 1983. The last home destroyed by lava on the Big Island was in Kalapana in 2012, according to Big Island Civil Defense.
Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Bill Trott and Peter Cooney