Authorities on Hawaii's Big Island warn that a new eruption of molten rock from a 220-foot high fountain of lava is channeling its way within 100 yards of a key escape-route intersection on the most threatened part of the island.
The Big Island, also known as the island of Hawaii, is about 200 miles southeast of Oahu, where the capital, Honolulu is located.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported Saturday that a 900-foot wide band of molten rock had pushed to within 100 yards of the intersection of highways 132 and 137 in an area known as Four Corners on the southeast side of the island.
The lava, which the USGS said has covered a of 5.5 square mile area, has burned at least 400 power poles, cutting power to most of the area, according to Hawaii Electric Light Co.
Hawaii Civil Defense spokesman Talmadge Mango said Friday that at least 87 buildings have been destroyed since the Kilauea volcano erupted May 3.
As the threat of lava blocking planned the two highway escape routes, contractors have been bulldozing an alternative escape route through the adjacent Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Volcanic fibers, known as Pele's hair, and other lightweight volcanic glass were reported to be gathering in the Leilani Estates, the hardest hit community.
"Volcanic gas emissions remain very high from the fissure eruptions," the USGS said. "Trade wind conditions are bringing vog (volcanic smog) to the south and west sides of the Island of Hawaii."
A new round of mandatory evacuations in Leilani Estates, where at least 40 homes have been destroyed, went into effect Friday as authorities warned that any residents who stay behind could be held liable for rescue costs if they get trapped and call for help.
“Persons remaining in the mandatory evacuation area … do so at their own risk with the knowledge that emergency responders may not respond,” Mayor Harry Kim has warned. “Persons in violation of this order are subject to arrest and will be liable for any costs associated with rescue operations in the mandatory evacuation area. Refusing to evacuate may put you, your family and first responders in danger."