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Hawaii volcano crawls towards homes

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The lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano is seen near the village of Pahoa, Hawaii

A stream of lava from the Kilauea volcano meandered towards a village on Hawaii’s Big Island on Monday night, creeping to just 70 yards (meters) of the nearest home.

Residents in the path of the lava flow have been told to be prepared to evacuate.

The flow has been moving at an average, though inconsistent, speed of 5 to 10 yards per hour. If it continues on its current trajectory and speed, it could impact property within the day.

The flow, which first bubbled out of the continuously erupting Kilauea on June 27, came to a standstill in late September but resumed its trudge several weeks ago. It has moved about 275 yards since Sunday morning.

The leading edge of the flow, which scientists said had narrowed to about 55 yards wide by Monday evening, has already overrun a cemetery on its path toward Pahoa village, a historic former sugar plantation consisting of small shops and homes with a population of about 800 people.

“We’re a resilient community, so we’ll get through this,” said Tiffany Edwards Hunt, a small business owner and county council election candidate. “But as a mom, I’m uneasy, anxious, and fearful.”

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said residents whose homes may be razed by the lava will be allowed into the restricted area to take photos and video for insurance purposes.

Two roads have been closed and the American Red Cross has opened an emergency shelter, Mayor Billy Kenoi’s office said.

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.

Methane explosions have also occurred near the front of the lava flow, said Janet Babb, a geologist and USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory spokeswoman, likely due to decomposing vegetation which produce pools of the gas under the surface.

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.

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