Four people airlifted as fast-moving lava threatens more homes in Hawaii

Four people airlifted as fast-moving lava threatens more homes in Hawaii

(CNN) – Fast-moving lava crossed a road and threatened dozens of homes, prompting National Guard helicopters to airlift residents from Hawaii’s lower Puna area.

Hawaii officials warned residents in affected areas to shelter in place Friday night and await further instructions. The lava forced the closure of Pohoiki Road, cutting off at least 40 homes, the Hawaii County Civil Defense said.

It urged residents near Highway 137 to be ready for voluntary evacuations should it become threatened.

“With fresher, hotter magma, there’s the potential that the lava flows can move with greater ease and therefore cover more area,” US Geological Survey geologist Janet Babb told CNN affiliate Hawaii News Now.

Resident Ikaika Marzo said lava flow has left his neighbors rattled. It sounds like 10 or 20 jets taking off from your backyard at the same time, he told the affiliate.

“It’s been like hell,” he said. “It’s like huge grenades going off. It shakes the whole community.”

Steve Gebbie lives in Leilani Estates, one of the hardest-hit areas. He said watching the lava destroy homes in his subdivision has been surreal.

When the Kilauea volcano erupted May 3, he joined hundreds of others forced from their homes in the subdivision. His home is still standing, but it’s surrounded by toxic gas.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s happened in our neighborhood,” said Gebbie, who’s lived in the subdivision for 12 years. “And every day has gotten worse.”

The lush green jungle has become rotten, yellow vegetation. Sections of streets that disappeared under the lava two weeks ago now look like a river of black molten rock.

Fissures, or cracks in the ground, are opening up, with a 22nd one reported Friday, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory said.

Toxic gas and hot lava continues spewing from old and new fissures. Lava has destroyed 40 structures so far, according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Just a day earlier, on Thursday, an eruption from the volcano’s summit shot ash and smoke 30,000 feet into the air. Authorities handed out almost 18,000 masks after Thursday’s explosive eruption from the Kilauea summit.

The sulfur dioxide was thick afterward near the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, enveloping the area in a thick fog that smelled of rotten eggs. In Pahoa, the earth sounded like it was cracking wide open as lava spattered and exploded from fissures.

US Geological Survey scientists said they expect the eruptions to continue.

“At any time, activity may again become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent,” it said.