Hundreds Forced to Evacuate After Hawaii Volcano Erupts: 'We Could Hear the Lava Exploding'

Officials are unsure when the eruption will end.

A volcanic eruption has forced the mandatory evacuation of hundreds of residents as lava poured down streets of a Hawaii subdivision.

Kilauea, the most active of the Big Island's volcanoes, erupted Thursday and sent fountains of lava, ash and smoke into the air as homeowners in the Leilani Estates neighborhood looked on.

"Shortly before 5 p.m., lava was confirmed at the surface in the eastern end of the subdivision," the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said late Thursday.

Governor David Ige said he activated the Hawaii National Guard to support county emergency response teams with evacuations and security.

Officials said there is no way to predict how long the eruption will continue or, consequently, when the displaced residents can go home.

Among those facing down the unknown was Stephen Clapper, who told KHON that his mother had to flee without her portable oxygen.

"So that's a first concern. She's 88 years old," Clapper said. 

Clapper recalled the terrifying moment the earth in Leilani Estates ripped open almost before his very eyes.

"Since it's right there behind our house, we could hear the lava exploding, right from the house," he said. "Is the house still gonna be there when we go back over there. It might be, the lava's floating downhill, we're uphill, but it's gonna be changing the scenery for sure."

Many residents were prepared for the evacuation after earthquakes slammed the lower Puna area, putting homeowners on high alert before the eruption even occurred. 

Leilani Estates is home to about 1,700 people.