Lava Threatens Mostly Abandoned Subdivision on Hawaii's Big Island

Lava from Kilauea Volcano on Thursday crept toward a largely abandoned subdivision on the Big Island that was nearly wiped away by an eruption that began 25 years ago.

The lava flow was 0.8 miles from the upper reaches of Royal Gardens, posing an immediate threat to the subdivision, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Only two of the homes in the subdivision are occupied, said Jim Kauahikaua, scientist in charge at the observatory.

A fire department helicopter was sent to warn any remaining residents of the possible danger from the flow, said Duane Hosaka, temporary assistant administrator of Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Dale Scharpenberg, a pilot for Island Hoppers tour company, said the lava flow was 10 feet wide before fanning out across the landscape.

"It spreads out all over, there's a lot of flow pumping out of there," Scharpenberg said.

He said there are about 10 structures left in the subdivision that has lost 60 homes to lava over the years. Only a few people live in Royal Gardens, he estimated.

Since it began in 1983, the eruption has destroyed 190 structures, covered nearly nine miles of roadway and has been responsible for the deaths of five sightseers.