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'Sulphur and caramelised foliage': Living on Hawaii under the threat of Kilauea

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The north east corner of Hawaii's Big Island is a beautiful and strange place.

As Mount Kilauea continues to erupt, more than 20 volcanic fissures spew lava that pushes through the jungle, cutting off roads and destroying homes.

The air smells of sulphur and caramelised foliage.

At two locations on the stunning coastline, molten rock pours in to the saltwater, creating plumes of hydrochloric acid laced with tiny shards of glass.

Much of the area is now sealed off by the National Guard, only letting residents in and out.

Image: Clouds of toxic steam filled with shards of glass are forming as lava hits the sea

But we were allowed to follow along and film with a patrol trying to keep tabs on the endlessly shifting volcanic activity.

Hawaii National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anthony said: "The situation is evolving almost hour by hour by hour and in some cases even faster than that."

He described how fresh hot lava can move at a speed of 300 meters an hour, and how they were worried about some "hold outs" in the area - people who are staying in their homes despite pleas to evacuate.

One of those residents, Scott Wiggins, told me: "It is a spectacle of nature.

"But I feel my property is safe and not in the path of the lava."

Image: Lava rivers have carved their way through Hawaii's landscape

Our patrol takes us in to the Leilani Estates, where many have chosen to leave.

We find a newly expanded fissure smoking sulphur dioxide in someone's back garden.

Lieutenant Colonel Anthony stands next to us, constantly checking a meter in his hand. It will tell us if the sulphur dioxide has reached dangerous levels.

He insists we all carry gas masks with us.

Someone has placed a pineapple on the grass of the back garden where the fissure hisses.

Sergeant William Silva explains it is an offering to Pele, goddess of fire and volcanoes. Locals believe offerings help placate her.

But Kilauea shows no signs of being placated.

Scientists say the eruptions may continue.

Image: As the wind changes direction more Hawaiians have been put at risk by the toxic clouds

As we leave, we stop to talk to Lyle Robert, who has come back to check on his property.

He grows flowers for a living, many of which are dying in the toxic fumes.

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