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Residents flee lava threat on Hawaii

Jeff and Denise Lagrimas' single-storey home is just across the street from properties where lava from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is expected to slither past on its way to the ocean.

But they're moving to another town 23 kilometers away before they're able to find out whether this forecast comes true or whether the molten rock oozes into their home instead.

Civil defence officials in Hawaii County said the lava was about 340 meters from the main road in Pahoa town, the commercial centre of Puna, a sprawling, mostly agricultural and forested part on the Big Island.

The lava entered private property next to the main road and was burning tyres and other materials.

The lava was edging forward at a rate of about 15 meters per hour.

The lava picked up speed last week after weeks of slow, stop-and-go movement. It broke out of forest and pasture and crossed into inhabited areas for the first time since scientists began warning about lava in August.

Prepared Pahoa residents have had weeks to prepare for what's been described as a slow-motion disaster. Most have either already left or are prepared to go.

At least 50 or 60 structures - including homes and businesses - are in an area civil defence officials are currently warning will likely be hit.

Some people want to watch the lava destroy their homes as it's one way to cope with the loss.

"You can only imagine the frustration as well as ... despair they're going through," said Hawaii County Civil Defence Director Darryl Oliveira.