Lava from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has destroyed hundreds more homes, engulfing two oceanfront communities where residents were advised to evacuate last week, officials said.
No injuries were reported as most residents had heeded the advice to leave.
The latest lost homes were in addition to at least 117 reported by officials since lava began spilling last month from cracks in the ground in a mostly rural district of the Big Island.
“We don’t have an estimate yet, but safe to say that hundreds of homes were lost in Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland last night,” said Janet Snyder, a spokeswoman for Hawaii County.
A morning overflight confirmed that lava had completely filled Kapoho Bay, inundated most of Vacationland and covered all but the northern part of Kapoho Beach Lots, the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.
Despite earlier reports that lava had claimed Big Island mayor Harry Kim’s second home in Vacationland, an aerial flyover confirmed his home was still standing, Ms Snyder said.
County managing director Wil Okabe said his own vacation home in Kapoho Beach Lots was threatened. He described the area as a mix of vacation rentals and year-round residences.
“For us it’s more of a vacation area, but for those who live there permanently, they’re trying to figure out where they’re going to be living,” he said. Mr Kim and Mr Okabe live in Hilo, the county’s seat, which is more than an hour drive from the Kapoho area.
Governor David Ige signed a second supplemental emergency proclamation on Tuesday that gives the county more options for shelters and sets criminal penalties for violating emergency rules, such as failing to evacuate and interfering with emergency workers.
Thousands of people in the Puna area had to evacuate after the first fissure opened on May 3.
Officials issued mandatory orders for residents of Leilani Estates, and those in Kapoho Beach and Vacationland were advised to leave last Friday or risk being trapped and unreachable by emergency crews.
Homes in Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland are on smaller lots and closer together than those in other parts of the Puna district. Mr Okabe estimated there are several hundred homes in each of the two subdivisions.