Quake hits Kilauea summit, sending ash plumes up to 8,000 feet

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Lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano destroyed hundreds more homes overnight, overtaking two oceanfront communities that were advised to evacuate last week, officials said Tuesday.

County Managing Director Wil Okabe said his own vacation home in Kapoho Beach Lots is also threatened.

Hawaii Civil Defense Service officials said they went through the neighborhood to warn residents this was their last chance to evacuate before their final escape route was cut off by lava.

When asked at a news conference Monday about the number of evacuations, he said he didn't have a good estimate because up to 80% of the houses in some areas are vacation rentals. The 800-metre-wide (0.5 mile) front of the lava flow, which has now covered more than 20km sq of land (8ml sq) had been advancing at around 76 metres an hour (250ft/hr) and hit the the ocean in Kapoho Bay around 10.30pm Sunday (local time), creating spectacular plumes of steam.

Lava flow erupted from fissure 8, photographed during HVO's early morning overflight today. The crew landed and confirmed the three people had no cellphone reception. The rest were consumed weeks earlier in the larger Leilani Estates subdivision several miles (km) to the west, where lava-spouting fissures in the ground first opened on May 3.

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Almost a dozen people were left stranded in an area cut off by lava on Sunday.

Officials warned the public to stay away from the plume because it can irritate skin and eyes and make it hard to breathe.

An explosion rocked Hawaii's Kilauea volcano early Tuesday morning, spewing ash almost a mile into the air and sparking an natural disaster that registered 5.5 magnitude on the Richter scale, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Scientists say they are unsure whether the latest activity is part of the same eruption phase or a new one, and how long it may last.

Officials warned residents about the presence of laze, a potentially risky mix of hydrochloric acid, steam and tiny glass particles in the air. Police on Monday said a 62-year-old man sped through a checkpoint near an intersection where lava was approaching.

Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed due to persistent earthquakes and eruptions of corrosive volcanic ash.

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