Dozens have evacuated as lava from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island works its way down to Pahoa. The lava is moving at a rate of about 20 yards an hour, and according to NBC News, is about "less than the length of a football field" away from the nearest home.

Lava from Kilauea has been steadily working its way toward the village since late June, when a new vent opened, threatening Pahoa, a town of about 1,000 people. Kilauea, the world's youngest volcano, has been active and erupting since 1983. A major concern for Hawaiian officials is lava cutting off access to the Pahoa, which is home to most of the region's grocery stores, gas stations, and hospitals. From the Los Angeles Times:

The flow front is 35 feet wide and moving at 10 yards per hour. If it continues at that speed it could cross Pahoa Village Road, the town's main street, within the next few days. From there it could cover Highway 130 within a week or two.

Although two unpaved escape roads have been built, and another more permanent road is under construction, if lava crosses the only highway in the lower Puna district, it would largely isolate the 9,000 people who live there.

The U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaii Volcano Observatory told NBC News that "potentially lethal" gas levels—created when the lava reacts with water—could reach " as far as three-quarters of a mile downwind" from populated areas.

As the Washington Post points out, lava flow is inconsistent and frequently speeding up, slowing down, and changing direction.

Schools have been closed in anticipation of lava eventually hitting Pahoa and CNN reports looters have taken advantage of the crisis and have robbed abandoned businesses and homes.

"This is a difficult situation for the people of Puna, it really is," Stephanie Bath, manager of the Red Cross shelter in Pahoa, told KHNL. "The people are losing everything that they have."

[Images via AP]