Up to 50 Hawaiian Buildings at Risk as Lava Flow Advances

VIDEO: Scorching Lava Flow Reaches Hawaiian TownPlayABCNews.com
WATCH Scorching Lava Flow Reaches Hawaiian Town

A lava flow has reached properties in a small Hawaiian town, burning at least one building, with 40 to 50 homes and businesses at risk, officials said.

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Thick clouds of smoke blanketed Pahoa on the Big Island as the river of molten lava seeped toward front doors. Residents such as Sarah Williams focused on packing, trying to save anything they could.

The lava has left fiery destruction in its wake, swallowing structures and other materials in a ball of flames. Utility poles are being insulated and surrounded by dirt, with authorities hopeful that the lava will go around the utility poles.

The lava, from the Kilauea volcano, picked up speed last week after weeks of slow, stop-and-go movement. It broke out of forest and pastureland and crossed into inhabited areas for the first time since scientists began warning about lava in August. The lava was edging forward at a rate of about 10 to 15 yards per hour, officials said.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.