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Lava creeps within mile of Hawaii shopping center

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[December 18, 2014]  By Karin Stanton
 PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) - A stream of molten lava from an erupting volcano on Hawaii's Big Island crept to within a mile of the only grocery store and gas station in the village of Pahoa on Wednesday as it neared a highway link with the rest of the island.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency reported on Wednesday that lava from the Kilauea Volcano's June 27 eruption continued to move in an east-northeast direction, following the path of steepest descent through rough terrain and thick undergrowth.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey said the flow measured about 250 feet (76 m) across and had advanced about 220 yards (200 m) in 24 hours, putting its leading edge 0.9 mile (1.5 km) from a small commercial plaza at the junction of Pahoa Village Road and the main highway.

Authorities said the lava was likely to reach the intersection sometime next week. An earlier branch of the lava flow stalled just feet from a recycling transfer station.

The latest flow has been advancing at an average rate of roughly 330 yards a day since early November.

While the lava poses no immediate threat to homes, it is headed directly at the Pahoa Marketplace housing a grocery store, gasoline station, medical clinic and several small shops and restaurants.

Civil Defense Chief Darryl Oliveira said county officials were working closely with the merchants to prepare for a possible evacuation.

The service station has begun emptying its gasoline tanks and replacing the fuel with water and fire-retardant foam, Oliveira said, and Malama Market has announced plans to close on Thursday.

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Also on Wednesday, the county opened a public viewing area at the transfer station, where lava breached the fence in late October but spared the facility.

Oliveira said more than 60 cars were counted pulling into the viewing area in the first couple of hours Wednesday morning.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Clarence Fernandez)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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