People airlifted away from relentless lava flow in Hawaii

Lava sends up clouds of steam and toxic gases when it hits the Pacific Ocean as Kilauea Volcano continues its eruption cycle

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.

At the summit of Kilauea, frequent earthquakes have begun to take their toll on structures in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Lava from the erupting Hawaii volcano has destroyed more than 100 homes in a rural Big Island district.

All but a few of the estimated 500 inhabitants of Kapoho and adjacent Vacationland development are now believed to have fled their homes, an agency spokesman said.

Those remaining in the mandatory evacuation area beyond the deadline were doing "so at their own risk, with the knowledge that emergency responders may not respond", the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said.

Additionally, the drone camera's live stream was able to allow the USGS to direct other residents out of hazardous areas, due to the more informed bird's-eye view.

While most of the fissures that opened up last month are now inactive, Fissure 8 is busy, pushing lava fountains 75 metres (250 feet) into the sky at temperatures of up to 1115°C (2040°F). Some said they were staying because they had nowhere else to go, officials said.

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The eruption has cut power, cell reception and county water in the area, CNN reported.

Lava from a fissure near the volcano entered Kapoho Bay late Sunday or early Monday, forcing billowing clouds of steam into the atmosphere as hot lava hit the cool water of the Pacific Ocean. The flow has prompted warnings from Hawaii County Civil Defense authorities about laze, a nasty mashup of lava and haze that sends hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles into the air. Authorities will attempt to airlift individuals out of the neighborhood if the lava spreads further. "And I don't know what to do", she said. Police said a 55-year-old man was arrested last week after he circumvented a traffic checkpoint and crashed his vehicle into a hardened lava flow.

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

The Hawaii Volcano Observatory reported that Fissure 8 is continuing to feed "a large channelized flow" along Highway 132.

The latest upheaval of Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, comes on the heels of an eruption cycle that began in 1983 and continued nearly nonstop for 35 years, destroying more than 200 dwellings and other structures.

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

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