By AUSTIN RAMZY
© 2018 New York Times News Service
More than two dozen homes have been destroyed since the Kilauea volcano began erupting last week, officials said on Sunday, as at least 10 fissures emerged, spewing lava into residential neighborhoods on the eastern edge of the island of Hawaii.
Last week, Hawaii County ordered evacuations of the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions, where about 1,800 people live.
Heath Dalton, a resident of Leilani Estates who was evacuated Friday, returned to his home Sunday morning. He drove a truck and trailer, planning to pick up boxes of his family’s possessions that he had packed earlier, but instead found his home engulfed in flames.
“I couldn’t go up my road,” he said. “It had huge, huge coverage of lava probably close to 10 feet tall.”
Officials said Sunday that 26 homes had been destroyed but they saw that number as likely to grow because the flow of magma was expected to continue.
“There’s no sign of it slowing down,” Talmadge Magno, the civil defense administrator for Hawaii County, said Sunday at a news conference. “We had some pauses yesterday, but it seems like there’s a lot of magma underground.”
He also said the levels of sulfur dioxide were “still high.”
The Civil Defense Agency said residents of the Leilani subdivision would be allowed back into their neighborhood from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily to check on their property and remove possessions. Lanipuna Gardens was closed, however, because of dangerous volcanic gases, the agency said.
Nonresidents were warned to keep away. “Please, the residents of Leilani need your help,” the agency said. “This is not the time for sightseeing.”
Fountains of lava have reached heights of 330 feet, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said. One video posted by the observatory showed orange and black lava belching smoke and flames as it crawled down a residential street. Other images taken by helicopter showed molten rock inching across the subdivision, setting alight the structures it touched.
While the property damage is increasing, no deaths or injuries have been reported.