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More Hawaiian homes destroyed by lava flow

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Pahoa, Hawaii

A GROWING river of molten rock flowing from a fissure at the foot of Kilauea volcano is believed to have demolished scores of additional homes and filled in a small bay at the eastern tip of Hawaii's Big Island, civil defence officials said on Tuesday.

The latest estimates - up to 80 more structures than previously counted as destroyed by lava smothering two newly evacuated subdivisions - could bring the total number of homes and other buildings lost over the past month to nearly 200.

Such a tally would put property losses from the current upheaval of Kilauea, which entered its 34th day on Tuesday, on par with the 215 structures destroyed by lava during all 35 years of the volcano's last eruption cycle, which began in 1983.

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The Hawaii County Civil Defense agency was putting the confirmed number of buildings lost to the current eruption at 117 on Monday, mostly residential properties.

About 80 of those were destroyed in the Leilani Estates community, where lava-spouting fissures in the ground first opened on May 3 downhill from the volcano's eastern flank.

Another three-dozen homes were confirmed destroyed at the weekend when a large lava stream creeping 10 km across the landscape reached the far eastern edge of the Big Island, pouring into the ocean at Kapoho Bay.

A civil defence official told Reuters that at least 60 to 80 more homes were believed to have been devoured as the lava flow, measuring about 800 metres wide and 3 to 4.5 metres tall, inundated the adjacent subdivisions of Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland. The official said aerial surveillance of the area showed only the northern portion of Kapoho Beach and the southernmost "sliver" of Vacationland - the latter consisting of only about half a dozen homes - were left unscathed.

Civil defence spokeswoman Janet Snyder said later county tax records show the two subdivisions consist of 279 homes combined and that "many of those 279 homes are feared destroyed". REUTERS