A 12-foot-high flow of lava burned and buried three more houses today as it cut through an isolated, heavily forested area, threatening several more homes.
Besides the three houses destroyed today in the Royal Gardens subdivision, two others were burned Friday night, bringing to 13 the number of homes destroyed since Kilauea Volcano erupted Jan. 3. The homes threatened by the lava were evacuated several days ago.
"You can't stop it. All you can do is step back. This is the fifth time around, and each time it's gotten closer," said Richard Hoffman, whose home is among those threatened.
The latest phase of the activity began Wednesday, sending a river of lava on a 3.5-mile course down Kilauea's slopes toward the subdivision.
The leading edge of the flow was about 240 feet wide and 12 feet high as it moved into the subdivision, stalling at times and then crawling ahead, Butts said.
The flow was being fed by the volcano's East Rift where lava fountains were spewing 60 to 150 feet out of the top of a 120-foot-high cinder vent.
"There has been a 20 percent increase in the lava being extruded from the vent," said Ken Yamashita, a spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey's volcano observatory.
By this morning, an estimated 120,000 cubic meters of lava were pouring out each hour, he said, setting brush fires and exploding trees in the path of the molten rock.
While most of the lava poured into the flow threatening the subdivision, another smaller vent has created a mile-long flow to the southwest, inside the boundary of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Yamashita said.
Kilauea, 4,000 feet above sea level, is on the island of Hawaii, at the southeastern end of the Hawaiian chain.