Volcano tourists have picked the ideal time to visit Hawaii

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A new fissure nearly 300m (1,000ft) long opened at the weekend, the 17th to appear on the Big Island since May 3 when the volcano began spewing toxic gases and molten lava.

Volcanic gases rise from a fissure in the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, May 14, 2018.

More lava-belching cracks are expected to open among homes and countryside about 40km east of Kilauea's smoking summit, possibly blocking another remaining exit route, Highway 132.

"There's a lot of worst-case scenarios and roads getting blocked is one of them", Jeff Hickman, spokesman for the Hawaii National Guard, told Reuters. Since then, 36 structures have been destroyed including 26 homes, as lava snaked through the area following the exploding fissures.

The American Red Cross said 500 people sought refuge in its shelters on Sunday night because of worsening volcanic activity.

Authorities in Hawaii have scrambled to move tens of thousands of gallons of highly flammable chemicals from the path of lava, and the state's governor has warned mass evacuations might be needed as the Kilauea volcano's eruption became more violent.

"Eruption of lava continues from multiple points along the northeast end of the active fissure system", the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a briefing. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says a lava flow has now formed and is slowly moving toward the ocean, which is about two miles (3.2 kilometers) away.

Unnerved by near constant small earthquakes and emissions of toxic sulfur dioxide gas, Rob Guzman and his husband Bob Kirk left their home in Kalapana Seaview Estates while they still could.

"You can't hop in a vehicle and drive your life, family, pets and job to another state", said Hazen, who described his area as one of the most diverse and tolerant in Hawaii. The U.S. Geological Survey said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano's Halemaumau crater has raised the potential for explosive eruptions at the volcano.

The ash plumes at the summit so far are rising only 4,000-6,000 feet (1,220-1,830 meters).

"The appearance of the fissures in the past couple of days does not change the overall picture or concern", Geological Survey scientist Steve Brantley said.