Hawaii volcano: Residents prepare to be evacuated from homes as lava creeps closer

Hawaii officials will make arrangements for those living in the path of a lava flow from the Kilauea volcano to watch the destruction of their homes

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A thick, smoking stream of lava from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is merely 60 metres (70 yards) away from a village on Big Island– prompting officials to organise an area where residents can watch the destruction of their homes.

Images from the usually idyllic island show lava engulfing woodlands, leaving smoldering trees in its wake and filling the air with acrid smoke.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said on Monday that the watching area is intended to "provide for a means of closure" for the inhabitants who have been told to prepare to leave their homes.

"You can only imagine the frustration as well as ... despair they're going through," he said.

Residents will allowed back into the restricted zone to take photos and videos for insurance purposes, he added.

Lava from Kilauea volcano, one of the world’s most active, first started erupting on 27 June but came to a standstill in late September. The molten liquid began moving again several weeks ago, and has shifted around 250 metres (275 yards) since Sunday morning.

The leading edge of the flow, which scientists said had narrowed to about 55 yards wide by Monday evening, has already overrun a cemetery on its path toward Pahoa village, a historic former sugar plantation consisting of small shops and homes with a population of about 800 people.

On Sunday, the lava crossed Apaa Street on Sunday in Pahoa Village - considered a main town of the Big Island's isolated and rural Puna district - and was creeping dangerously close to Pahoa Village Road in the town centre. If it maintains its current rate, the lava could consume homes within the day, although no-one knows if the lava will suddenly stop or change direction.

"We're a resilient community, so we'll get through this," Tiffany Edwards Hunt, a small business owner and county council election candidate, told Associated Press reporters. "But as a mum, I'm uneasy, anxious, and fearful."

Anticipating the impact the lava may have on residents, two roads on the island have been closed and the American Red Cross has opened an emergency shelter, Mayor Billy Kenoi's office said.

Crews have been building temporary access roads and trying to protect Highway 130, a route traveled by as many as 10,000 cars a day.

The Kilauea volcano has erupted from its Pu'u O'o vent since 1983. The last home destroyed by lava on the Big Island was in Kalapana in 2012, according to Big Island Civil Defense.

Additional reporting by AP and Reuters