Hawaiian volcano destroys dozens of homes with 'no sign of things slowing down'

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Weather & Natural Disasters

Hawaiian volcano destroys dozens of homes with 'no sign of things slowing down'

A plume of volcanic gas mixed with smoke from fires caused by lava rises (C) amidst clouds in the Leilani Estates neighborhood in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.
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More than two dozen homes in Hawaii have been destroyed by volcanic eruptions that are wreaking havoc on two Big Island communities.

About 1,700 residents living in Puna subdivisions Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens were forced to flee their homes after a fissure in the lower East Rift Zone of the Kilauea Volcano began spewing lava Thursday. As of Sunday night, 10 fissures have opened since the initial eruption, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

The volcano, which has been erupting since 1983, is one of the most active in the world. Here's what you need to know about the ongoing situation on the island:

  • 10 fissures opened since Thursday

    Ten fissures have been intermittently spewing lava since Thursday.

    As of Sunday afternoon, the agency reported active venting of lava and toxic fumes in the subdivisions. The agency did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the eighth fissure to emerge ceased emitting lava at about 4 p.m. HST Sunday, but the molten flow continued to travel more than half a mile even after the lava fountains shut down.

    Pictured below, one fissure sprayed lava as high as 230 feet.

    A new fissure spraying lava fountains as high as about 230 feet (70 m), according to United States Geological Survey, is shown from Luana Street in Leilani Estates subdivision on Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone in Hawaii, May 5, 2018.
    US Geological Survey | Reuters
  • Evacuees seek shelter

    Civil defense officials said 31 buildings, including 26 homes, were destroyed as of Sunday afternoon. About 240 people with 90 pets sought refuge in two American Red Cross shelters, NBC News affiliate KNHL reported. Hundreds of others are staying with friends and family.

    The communities have been under evacuation orders since Thursday, displacing about 1,700 people. An alert urging any remaining residents to leave their homes was sent Sunday night, as officials feared the lava would incinerate more homes, KNHL reported.

    Below, evacuees filled out paperwork upon arriving at a shelter.

    Evacuees fill out forms before being allowed to return to their Leilani Estates homes to gather belongings on May 6, 2018, near Pahoa, Hawaii.
    Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images
  • Some residents briefly return home

    In areas deemed safe, some Leilani Estates residents have been permitted to return to their homes to check on their homes and gather their belongings, civil defense officials said. Returnees were urged to wear masks to prevent them from breathing in toxic volcanic gases.

    However, all of Lanipuna Gardens remained off-limits due to high levels of sulfur dioxide.

    One man, pictured below, walked away from a fissure pumping steam.

    A man walks away as steam rises from a fissure at the Leilani Estates subdivision near the town of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island on May 4, 2018 as up to 10,000 people were asked to leave their homes following the eruption of the Kilauea volcano that came after a series of recent earthquakes.
    Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images
  • What is sulfur dioxide? 

    Sulfur dioxide can be dangerous, causing irritation to the skin and mucous membranes of the eyes, throat, nose and lungs. Short-term exposure to high levels can be life-threatening, the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry said.

    Lava from volcanic fissures slowly flows and overtakes structures and trees in the Leilani Estates neighborhood in the aftermath of eruptions from the the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.
    Getty Images
  • 'No sign of things slowing down'

    Talmadge Magno, the Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, told CBS News that there were "no signs of things slowing down."

    "That's the sad part about it," Magno said. "It could be happening for a long time, or on the other hand, like I said, mysteriously it could just end."

    Earthquake activity has been rampant on the island, though it has decreased slightly since Thursday's eruption. On Friday, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake – the island's largest since 1975 –shook the community just hours after a magnitude 5.4 earthquake triggered a fifth eruption in the subdivision. Smaller earthquakes, mostly too minuscule to be noticed by residents, were recorded recently.

    Below, parishioners prayed during Mass at Sacred Heart Church on Hawaii's Big Island as fissures sprayed lava on the Puna subdivisions throughout most of the day.

    Parishioners pray during Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.
    Getty Images
  • Lava Flow

    Lava advances along a street near a fissure in Leilani Estates, on Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone, Hawaii.

    Lava advances along a street near a fissure in Leilani Estates, on Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone, Hawaii, the U.S., May 5, 2018.
    U.S. Geological Survey | Reuters