Lava destroys a house as it flows into the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii’s Kapoho area during eruptions of the Kilauea volcano. Picture: Reuters
HONOLULU: Lava from Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano has destroyed more than 100 homes in a rural Big Island district.

As of Monday, lava had burnt down 117 homes, said Hawaii County spokesperson Janet Snyder.

On Friday, the count was at 87 homes. Officials had previously been updating the number of structures burnt because it was difficult to tell from aerial surveys which were homes or other buildings.

Snyder said from now on the county would provide counts of homes destroyed.

Officials were waiting for a count of how many homes were destroyed in an area called Kapoho.

Snyder said it was difficult to count homes in that area from the air because of steam produced from lava entering the ocean.

Thousands in the Puna district had to evacuate after lava fissures started opening in neighbourhoods a month ago. Officials had issued mandatory orders for residents of Leilani Estates and those in Kapoho Beach and Vacationland to leave by Friday afternoon or risk being trapped and unreachable.

Residents in the nearby areas should also be prepared to evacuate with little notice, officials said.

On Sunday, a US Geological Survey (USGS) field crew was in a helicopter when they noticed that people on the ground needed help.

The crew landed and confirmed the three people had no cellphone reception.

The flight crew went to a safe location and dropped off the USGS team, then went back and airlifted the people to safety, said Janet Babb, a USGS geologist.

Helicopter footage showed lava from one fissure entering the ocean at Kapoho Bay.

Scientists said a laze plume was blowing inland from the ocean entry but dissipating quickly. Laze is formed when hot lava hits the ocean, reacts with sea water and sends hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles in the air.

Officials warned the public to stay away from the plume because it could irritate skin and eyes and make it difficult to breathe.

Lava has covered 20 km², scientists said on Monday.

The USGS's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said parts of the channelised flow from a fissure were starting to break out and move north.

There have been arrests of people forcing their way through blocked areas. Police on Monday said a 62-year-old man sped through a checkpoint near an intersection where lava was approaching.

He faces charges that include refusing to evacuate and reckless driving. - AP/African News Agency