2000-degree lava oozed its way past residential properties on Hawaii’s Big Island on Wednesday as it made its way to the ocean shores. The flow from the Kilauea volcano has been creeping toward the village of Pahoa for weeks now.
At average speeds of 10 to 15 yards (nine to 14 meters) an hour, the lava flow menaced dozens of homes and businesses in the seaside town of about 800 residents, Reuters reports. The Hawaii Civil Defense agency announced on Wednesday morning that the lava had advanced to within 280 yards of Pahoa Village Road, the main street through the town, with Pahoa’s business district, resting mostly south of the area, in greatest danger.
So far, the lava flow has incinerated an outbuilding, crossed a road and cemetery, and has even triggered methane explosions.
On Tuesday, the molten rock reached temperatures of 1,650 Fahrenheit (900 Celsius), submerging a utility shed but sparing the rental house across from it, which had already been cleared, civil defense director Darryl Oliveira said. The leading edge of the lava stream narrowed to about 55 yards across, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
Residents of about 50 homes in the lava’s expected course were advised to flee. Many have slowly begun to vacate their homes, though not pleased with the situation.
“Today it’s sad and anxious. It just kind of hurts right in your stomach,” said Paula Modjeska, a healthcare worker who has lived in the town for four decades. “I just always thought Pahoa would be here.”
Officials reported they would close a threatened elementary school on Wednesday and close four more schools on Thursday as precaution.
“You can only imagine the frustration as well as … despair they’re going through,” Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said.
Kilauea’s present eruption began 21 years ago in 1983; between then and 1990, bubbling lava from it has destroyed more than 180 homes—however, until now, none since 2012.
The volcano’s recent activity stems from a June 27 flow from its Pu’u O’o vent, which came to a halt in September before starting again.
“It’s so surreal, it’s so surreal. Never in my wildest dreams as a kid growing up did I think I would be running from lava,” resident Denise Lagrimas said.