A neighbourhood on Hawaii’s Big Island has disappeared as lava poured into two oceanfront areas, filling an ocean bay, turning it into new land jutting into the sea.
Molten rock entirely covered the neighbourhood – called Vacationland – and only a few buildings remained in the nearby Kapoho area, officials with the US Geological Survey said.
USGS geologist Wendy Stovall explained: ‘The bay is completely filled in and the shoreline is at least 0.8 miles out from its original location.
‘Vacationland is gone, there is no evidence of any properties there at all. On the northern end of that, there are just a few homes in the (Kapoho) beach lots area.’
Resident Mark Johnson is hopeful that his home on a citrus farm is one of those still standing. His ocean-view property sits on a ridge near the base of Kapoho crater, and he thinks the lava could have missed it.
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But he has resigned himself to the possibility that he could lose his beloved farm, which he cannot access even if lava does not cover it.
The property is close to a crater lake that the approaching flow vaporised days before entering his neighbourhood.
Speaking about how he may lose his home of 28 years, he said: ‘I’m kind of at peace, actually. I feel that I’ve had a really great experience.’
County officials said the two neighbourhoods have 279 homes, and most are feared destroyed by the most recent lava flows in the low-lying area.
Molten rock from the erupting Kilauea volcano has already destroyed at least 117 homes in the Lanipuna Gardens and Leilani Estates neighbourhoods where lava surfaced more than a month ago. The total number of homes destroyed in the eruption stands at about 400.
Scientists are still recording vigorous volcanic activity but Ms Stovall said it was ‘still really impossible to tell’ when it will end.
At Kilauea’s summit, increased earthquake activity has led to explosive eruptions, some of which have shot rock and ash high into the air.
Ms Stoball added: ‘We expect larger explosions will continue at the summit.’
The lava inundation is among the most destructive and costly in volcano property loss in US history.
While no one has been killed and only one lava-related injury has been reported, the number of destroyed homes dwarfs other recent American eruptions.
In Hawaii, previous eruptions have destroyed small towns, but nothing on the scale of the latest outbreak.