Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano has destroyed more than two dozen homes in the Big Island’s Puna district and forced the evacuation of more than 1,700 people since lava began spewing into residential neighborhoods on Thursday.
Heartwrenching images of cars catching fire and rivers of red-hot lava blanketing houses have also been shared widely on social media.
“My son keeps asking me, ‘Mommy when are we going to go home?’” Amber Makuakane, a single mom of two whose property was destroyed on Saturday, told The Associated Press.
At least 31 homes have been destroyed by the lava eruptions, reported AP, and officials said that figure could increase in the coming days.
More than 1,700 residents from Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, subdivisions of the Big Island’s Puna district, have been forced to evacuate.
Officials warned Sunday that it was impossible to predict how long the volcanic activity would continue. But for the moment, said one, there was “no sign of things slowing down.”
“That’s the sad part about it,” Hawaii County civil defense administrator Talmadge Magno told CBS News. “It could be happening for a long time, or on the other hand … mysteriously it could just end.”
As of Sunday, officials said at least 10 fissures — elongated fractures or cracks in the earth’s surface from which lava erupts — had opened in Puna, parts of which sit on Kilauea’s east rift zone.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, newly opened fissures have been “active for a couple of hours before shutting off.” The observatory said more fissures are likely to open, but it couldn’t predict details.
“This is a very fast moving-situation,” Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said on Sunday, according to Hawaii News Now. “This is unfortunately not the end.”
As displaced residents steeled themselves for a possibly long spell away from home, many expressed a serene attitude.
“You have to ask Pele,” Steve Clapper, a Leilani Estates resident, told the AP, when asked when he thought he might return home. Pele, according to traditional Hawaiin beliefs, is the volcano goddess who resides in Kilauea.
“What can you do? You have no control over it,” Clapper continued. “Pele’s the boss, you know.”
Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, has been erupting continuously since 1983. Lava, however, hasn’t threatened the population since 2014, when a slow-moving flow prompted road closures and evacuations.