Lava from Hawaii volcano covers 8 square miles

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After vigorous eruptions from the Kilauea volcano, almost a dozen people were left stranded in an area cut off by lava, Hawaii authorities announced Sunday.

The US Geological Survey said the lava from the Kilauea volcano has covered an area of 5.5 square miles - four times as big as New York's Central Park.

From earthquakes to seeping lava, Hawaii's Big Island has seen plenty from nature since the first eruptions of Kilauea volcano. Snyder said it was hard to count homes in that area from the air because of steam produced from lava entering the ocean.

Kahele said the devastation in the area was unprecedented.

Talmadge Magno, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, said at least 159 homes have now been claimed by lava.

Officers have issued 18 total citations in the last week to people for bypassing checkpoints and entering unsafe areas, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) said in a statement.

Authorities warned residents for days to leave the area as well as nearby Leilani Estates and Vacationland - but some people refused to go, saying they would not abandon their homes.

On Saturday, National Guard troops, police and firefighters ushered evacuees from homes on the eastern tip of the island, hours before lava cut off road access to the area, officials said. "We expect that natural disaster rates may increase in the coming hours to days and culminate in another small explosion, following the pattern of the past few weeks", scientists say.

The lava from fissure No. 8 continues to feed a large, channelized flow that pushed into the bay sometime last night, Hawaii County Civil Defense announced this morning.

Authorities are planning to airlift people out if the lava spreads farther and endangers the dozen or so holdouts. She tried to pick up a strand but, "It just kind of melted into my skin and cut me".

Thermal images of the Fissure 8 lava fountain show how much it grew late last week and a pu'u (cone) has built up downwind.

. "It's so sharp, it feels like the glass is still in there".

The ongoing flow is being fed by huge fountains - some as high as 250 feet - spewing from fissure no. 8, and follows a dramatic weekend in lower Puna.

Lava burned two buildings at the plant, a substation and a warehouse that stored a drilling rig, officials said.

The current activity has been accompanied for weeks by daily periodic explosions of gas and volcanic rock from Kilauea's summit crater as well as earthquakes.

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