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Slithering lava sends Hawaii residents from homes

Lava flowing from Kilauea Volcano has been slowly heading toward the town of Pahoa for weeks,REUTERS

PAHOA, Hawaii — Lava is expected to slither past properties across the street from Jeff and Denise Lagrimas’ home on Hawaii’s Big Island as it works its way to the ocean. But they are packing up to leave for a town 14 miles away, so they will not know whether that prediction comes true or whether the molten rock oozes into their home instead.

‘‘I don’t want to stick around and just wait for it to come and take it,’’ Denise Lagrimas said. ‘‘You just never know.’’

The lava was about 280 yards from the main road in Pahoa, the commercial center of Puna, a mostly agricultural district on the Big Island.

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The flow from Kilauea Volcano entered private property next to the main road and was burning tires and other materials, prompting authorities to warn downwind residents with respiratory problems to stay indoors. The lava was edging forward at about 11 yards per hour and slowed early Wednesday to about 5.5 yards per hour, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

Pahoa residents have had weeks to prepare for what has been called 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 officials warn will probably be hit.

ASSOCIATED PRESS