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HONOLULU-Lava from the Kilauea volcano destroyed hundreds of homes in a mostly rural area on the Big Island of Hawaii overnight, a county spokesperson said Tuesday.

Steam plumes rise as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure, on Hawaii's Big Island on 21 May, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii.

A U.S. Geological Survey official said that the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is experiencing 500 earthquakes each day. On Sunday four people were rescued by airlift, according to KITV, but officials with the Hawaii County Civil Defense estimated that "about twelve people" were still trapped in the area.

National Guard troops, police and firefighters helped residents flee the seaside community of Kapoho and the Vacationland development hours before lava cut off their last escape route on Saturday, officials said. "This is the same process that caused the summit lava lake to drop out of sight within the "Overlook vent" inside Halemaʻumaʻu Crater".

"We don't have an estimate yet, but (it's) safe to say that hundreds of homes were lost in Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland last night", she told the wire service.

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UPDATE (8:20 a.m.) - The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory's 6:30 a.m. HST overflight "confirmed that lava completely fills Kapoho Bay, extending 0.7 miles from the former coastline", scientists reported this morning.

That's a lot of lava, but flow volumes can be extraordinarily hard to measure, the USGS said. However, a handful of residents said they had nowhere else to go and chose instead to remain in their homes.

For those whose homes have been unscathed, the prolonged strain of uncertainty has grown increasingly hard.

The lava itself, extruded from about two dozen fissures that opened on the slope of Kilauea's "eastern rift zone" earlier this month, has also knocked out telephone and power lines and forced the shutdown of a geothermal energy plant. The destruction is the largest number of destroyed homes since the eruption began last month.

"Unlike lava, which you can see coming and avoid, we cannot see or predict earthquakes, nor can we foresee a summit explosion, but both threats continue", park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said.