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Hundreds of homes in peril as Kilauea lava flow nears Kapoho Beach Lots, Vacationland

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Lava from fissure No. 8 oozes toward Kapoho Bay on Sunday in lower Puna. Special thanks to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Lava from fissure No. 8 oozes toward Kapoho Bay on Sunday in lower Puna. Special thanks to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Lava flows into Green Lake on Sunday in lower Puna. Special thanks to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.
  • Tribune-Herald map showing approximate location of fissure 8 lava flow Sunday near Kapoho.

A wide lava flow fanned out Sunday over farm lots as it edged closer to Kapoho Bay and threatened to bury hundreds of homes in Vacationland and Kapoho Beach Lots.

More homes and farm buildings were engulfed over the weekend, but officials had not updated their tally of lost homes, which remained at 87.

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Talmadge Magno, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, said most of the area’s estimated 500 homes remained standing as the half-mile-wide flow crept to within about 245 yards from the ocean Sunday evening.

“The density is on the coastline, so the majority is still there,” he said. “The majority are just clustered along the coastline. I don’t want to venture to say how much are left in there.”

As of Sunday morning, lava covered more than three dozen parcels containing structures, both homes and agricultural buildings, in the area.

The flow is fed by fissure No. 8 in Leilani Estates, which was producing fountains of lava 220 feet high. All other fissures were inactive except for gas emissions and reports of incandescence without fountaining.

Magno previously said up to a dozen residents chose to remain in the Kapoho area, which is now isolated because of the lava flow. On Sunday, two men and a woman were picked up by a private helicopter rented by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Civil Defense confirmed later that another woman was rescued who had previously refused to evacuate.

The flow, Magno said, was “still within the area of Kapoho Beach Lots and approaching the Vacationland area.”

He said footage of the destruction has to be compared with county property tax records before the tally of destroyed homes is changed.

Magno described the farm lots area first breached makai of Highway 137 as “big properties with a few residences.”

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geophysicist Jim Kauahikaua noted earlier Sunday the flow front was tucked between Kapoho Beach Road and Kapoho Kai Drive and “moving fairly slowly.” He said the terrain “gets a little bit steeper right towards the ocean,” so it could gain speed if it continues to approach the shoreline.

County Managing Director Wil Okabe said he owns a home in Kapoho Beach Lots, and Mayor Harry Kim has one in Vacationland. He added it’s likely the lava will destroy more homes in the Kapoho area than it did in Leilani Estates.

Okabe had planned to survey Kapoho Sunday afternoon but was unable to do so, he said, because of overcast weather in the area.

“We’re very concerned, because we had to rescue some people out of the Kapoho area (Sunday) morning,” Okabe said. “There was one lady there who said she didn’t want to leave. She said she had water and food. But I don’t know how these guys are going to be able to live there for a long, long period.”

He added, “The most important thing for the county is safety. Not only safety for the residents, but safety for the first responders, too.”

The summit area of Kilauea remained active, as well, with a 5.5-magnitude earthquake striking at 3:51 p.m.

An ash plume rose up to 8,000 feet above sea level, with the wind blowing the ash in a southwest direction and fallout predicted to affect the Volcano and Pahala areas.

The quake and resulting ash plume followed a 24-hour period with more than 500 earthquakes reportedly measured at the volcano’s summit.

HVO seismologist Brian Shiro said the amount of earthquakes was “the highest rate ever measured there.” He said most were magnitude-2.7 and under, but one was measured at magnitude-3.5.

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Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.