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Rivulets of Destruction Surge From Volcano’s Main Lava Flow

December 3, 1986

KALAPANA, Hawaii (AP) _ Golden tributaries of searing lava from the Kilauea Volcano crept toward more homes Tuesday after the fiery flow consumed its 10th house, and roadblocks kept back sightseers from the unstable rivulets.

The two-story home of Louis and Becky Pau, which was spared in a heroic effort Thursday by firefighters pouring water to harden the advancing flow as it crossed the yard, burned to the ground Monday night. It was hit by one of the smaller side flows, a Civil Defense spokesman said.

″Mother Nature takes its course. It’s nothing personal,″ said Pau, 60, after watching his home burn. ″You can’t stop it or hate it. The lava gives us more land than she takes.″

The seven-mile-long river of lava, which has destroyed or threatened 18 homes, sparked brush fires and set roadways ablaze, is surging into the sea at an estimated rate of 450,000 cubic yards a day in a violent spectacle that has drawn thousands of sightseers.

The main flow is being fed from a vent at the 2,100-foot elevation in the east rift zone of Kilauea, the world’s most-active volcano, said Harry Kim, head of the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.

Roadblocks remained in place to keep people away from where the flow covers more than a mile of the Kalapana Highway, because of the instability of the still-cooling flow and the chance of new outbreaks, Kim said.

Sightseers continue making the hour-long drive down from Kilauea’s summit to reach a half-mile trail on the west side of the flow to Kupapau Point where they watched the lava go into the sea, said Tom Wright, of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

″The best show is at night when you can see the glowing red lava going into the water,″ Wright said. During the day, all that can be seen is the black rock and the steam being sent up as the 2,000-degree molten rock meets the cool Pacific, he said.

The lava travels from the vent to the sea in tubes that have formed inside the cooled and solidified outer shell of the flow, said Reggie Okamura, chief of operations for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

It has created more than 13 acres of new land as it continues to extend out from a quarter-mile-wide stretch of the coast to the west. The new land belongs to the state, according to a 1970s ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

There is no indication of any letup in the activity at the vent where lava is pouring out at a rate of 600,000 cubic yards a day, according to a revised estimate, said Okamura.

The activity began July 18 as the latest phase of Kilauea’s Jan. 3, 1983 eruption.

It has sent flows in several directions, but the latest flow was the first to do any property damage and the first Kilauea flow to reach the sea since the Mauna Ulu eruption in 1974.

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