Oozing lava ignites Hawaii home

2014-11-11 18:48
Picture by The County of Hawaii via Ena Media Hawai’i/Blue Hawaiian Helicopters shows lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano near a residential structure in Pahoa, Hawaii. (The County of Hawaii, AP)

Picture by The County of Hawaii via Ena Media Hawai’i/Blue Hawaiian Helicopters shows lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano near a residential structure in Pahoa, Hawaii. (The County of Hawaii, AP)

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Honolulu - Lava has been slowly snaking its way toward rural Hawaii communities for months, but it took an oozing stream of molten rock just 45 minutes to burn down an empty house.

Firefighters standing by to tackle any spreading wildfires let the flames consume the 100m² structure on Monday afternoon as a relative of the home-owner watched and recorded video of the destruction with an iPhone.

It was the first house incinerated by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on the Big Island that scientists have been warning the public about since August. And it likely won't be the last.

The home's nearest neighbour is about one kilometre away, Hawaii County Civil Defence Director Darryl Oliveira said. A garage and barn structure near the destroyed home could also burn down soon, he said.

The lava emerged from a vent in June and entered Pahoa, the largest town in Big Island's isolated and mostly agricultural Puna district, on 26 October. Since then, it has smothered part of a cemetery and burned down a garden shed. It also burned tires, some metal materials and mostly vegetation in its path.

The leading edge of the lava flow had bypassed the home, but it was a lobe of lava that broke out up slope and widened that reached the house. Where the lava will reach next, and when, is hard to predict.

The county estimates the value of the destroyed home at about $200 000, Oliveira said. The renters left in August, he said.

Officials would make arrangements for homeowners to watch any homes burn as a means of closure and to document the destruction for insurance purposes.

The front of the flow stalled on 30 Oct and remained about 150m from Pahoa Village Road on Monday, a main street that goes through downtown.

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