Mile-long lava path flows towards ocean in Hawaii

Kilauea's flowing lava threatens final escape routes in Hawaii

Kilauea's flowing lava threatens final escape routes in Hawaii

Apart from the release of sulphur dioxide, the lava flowing from new fissures threatened highways also Monday.

Almost 20 fissures have opened since the Kilauea volcano started erupting 12 days ago and officials warn it could soon blow its top with a massive steam eruption that would shoot boulders and ash into the sky.

Lava from one of the fissures has been moving toward a coastal dirt road that is also a key access route for some 2,000 residents in the southeastern area of the Big Island, home to around 200,000 people. A major concern for emergency services is lava devastating roads that could lead locals away from danger.

Mass evacuations would be triggered if either highway is hit by lava, said Hawaii National Guard spokesman Jeff Hickman.

Since eruptions began 10 days ago, dozens of homes have been destroyed and officials have ordered the evacuations of almost 2000 people in the lower Puna district of the Big Island, home to around 187,000 residents.

Two more fissures opened in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 19. And it could send ash plumes as far as 12 miles from the summit crater, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said. A similar seismic event in 1955 lasted 88 days, he said. The County of Hawaii Civil Defense advised residents to leave the area to minimize exposure to the toxic gas hazard and to get medical attention if severely affected. The U.S. Geological Survey said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano's Halemaumau crater has raised the potential for explosive eruptions at the volcano. The possibility exists, however, that water may not be entering the crater, as feared, and gas and steam may be safely venting, scientists said.

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Scorching lava has already swallowed dozens of homes and vehicles.

Officials added the residents should leave the area of volcanic activity, avoid outdoor activities, drink plenty of fluids, avoid smoking, close windows and recirculate the air conditions when smog levels are elevated.

The Big Island tourism board estimates $5 million worth of cancellations from May through July.

On the volcano Kilauea, located in Hawaii, there was another crack, which at the moment come out of magma and smoke.

This is the "first leak we're seeing out of the bucket", Birch said.

The industry grew the fastest on Big Island past year compared with other islands in the archipelago, pulling in about US$2.5 billion in visitor spending.

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