Geologists monitoring Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano warned that the eruption could possibly last for months and years, threatening new communities. A status report last week by the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said there was a possibility of the lava flow changing direction, which could destroy more homes and localities, reported Reuters. Since Kilauea started erupting on May 3, at least 712 homes have burnt down and thousands of residents forced to evacuate.

The eruption has covered more than 23 square kilometres with lava and added 700 acres of land to the island, according to a CNN report. If the eruption maintains its activity at a high eruption rate, it might take months to a year or two to wind down, the report added.

Another status report published on Monday said Fissure 8 of the volcano continued to erupt lava at an estimated rate of 100 cubic metres per second.

Kilauea, which is an active volcano, is also the youngest and southernmost volcano on the island of Hawaii. It has been spewing lava from the same area on its eastern side, called the East Rift Zone, as it did during eruptions in 1840, 1955, and 1960. The longest of those eruptions – in 1955 – continued for 88 days, and the current eruption has the potential to overtake it.

The report said that the observatory’s field crews are on site and tracking activity, relaying information back to the Hawaii County Civil Defense. It said emissions of volcanic gas “remain very high” and asked residents in nearby areas to “minimise exposure to these volcanic particles”, which can cause skin and eye irritation.

On July 17, flying lava from the volcano struck a tour boat and injured 23 people.