More than two dozen homes destroyed by lava from Hawaii volcano

Activity continues on Kilauea's east rift zone, as a fissure erupts more than 200 feet into the air near Pahoa, Hawaii, on Sunday. Photo by Bruce Omori/Paradise Helicopters/EPA-EFE

By Ed AdamczykUPI

Seismic activity around Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano increased Monday with additional fissures opening and at least 31 buildings destroyed by lava flow.

There are at least 10 open fissure vents, all in the Leilani Estates subdivision of Puna on the eastern end of the big island of Hawaii.

With varying intensity, they are emitting steam and high levels of toxic sulphuric gases, as well as spewing lava. The volcano itself had been shooting lava streams up to 230 feet in the air.

About 1,700 residents in the area were ordered to evacuate and of the 31 buildings lost, officials said 26 are homes. The area was closed by police.

The fissures are increasing in number and opening between residential streets of the subdivision, Hawaii County’s alert system said.

Earthquake activity near Kilauea increased in the past two days as a series of powerful earthquakes shook the Big Island on Friday. The quakes were preceded by a 4.6-magnitude earthquake Thursday.

Talmadge Magno, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, said first responders were affected by the toxic gases.

“The officers and firefighters that were out there on the first night [observed] the gases were really high. Usually it’s not long-lasting. You can recover from it, but they went home with headaches and so forth, but that’s part of the exposure,” Magno said.

The Hawaii Fire Department reported extremely dangerous air quality readings, and over 300 people have moved into two American Red Cross shelters. Two nearby parks, Lava Tree State Monument and Mackenzie State Recreation Area, were closed. A Kaiser Permanente health clinic in Hilo, the nearest city with an airport, closed because its telephone, water and power service was interrupted.

All public schools on the island were scheduled to open Monday, although five charter schools will stay closed. Air quality will be monitored at the schools, with plans to activate shelter-in-place procedures if air quality worsens.