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River of lava destroys hundreds of homes in Hawaii, including one owned by mayor, officials say

Lava from the Kilauea volcano flows through the Malama-Ki Forest Reserve as it approaches Kapoho-Kalapana Road on Hawaii’s Big Island, Pahoa, Hawaii.. (Tamir Kalifa/Copyright 2018 The New York Times)

The molten lava on the island of Hawaii has destroyed what officials said may be hundreds of homes, including a vacation home of the island's mayor, Harry Kim, as a spewing vent has sent a wide, slow-moving river of lava into a residential community and the sea beyond it on the island's east side.

The lava flow, which has destroyed homes in the community of Kapoho and filled in an ocean bay known for snorkeling and tidal pools, is coming from a nearby fissure, which has spouted a fountain of lava that has reached as high as 250 feet in recent days. Janet Snyder, a spokeswoman for Hawaii County, said that officials believed that hundreds of homes in the Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland areas had been destroyed overnight, adding to a confirmed toll of 117 homes from Monday.

"Nobody knows what comes next as far as the lava goes," Snyder told The Washington Post.

Photos show the lava's recent advance across the lush countryside and into the housing subdivision and bay. The molten rock has formed a new delta in the ocean after extending at least seven-tenths of a mile out, officials said. The bay is nearly completely filled in with lava, according to the Associated Press.

Officials warned residents about the presence of laze, a potentially dangerous mix of hydrochloric acid, steam and tiny glass particles in the air.

Carolyn Boudreault, a Kapoho resident who is currently staying in Boston with her family, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the bay was a treasured place. "It's a beautiful spot," she said Monday. "Gorgeous."

Hawaii officials told the news outlet that the community was made up primarily of vacation homes.

There have been 9,900 earthquakes on the island since May 4 as a result of the geological activity, the USGS said, including about 500 near Kilauea's summit over the weekend, according to CNN.

The lava flow has covered about 7.7 square miles of the island, according to the USGS.

Story by Eli Rosenberg. Rosenberg is a reporter on The Washington Post's General Assignment team. He has worked at the New York Times and the New York Daily News.