Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Erupts Forcing Thousands to Flee their Homes

Steven Agar |

Kilauea volcano, on Hawaii’s largest island, erupted yesterday causing lava to spew out of cracks in the ground in residential areas, prompting the mandatory evacuation of 1,700 residents. The Pacific island state’s governor immediately signed an emergency proclamation releasing disaster funds to the Big Island in the eruption’s wake.

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Credit: NPR

Local news footage showed streams of lava flowing through a forest with photos and drone footage showing cracks opening up across green yards and roadways and molten rock bursting out. Community centers have been opened to provide shelter.

One resident, Ikaika Marzo, told The Honolulu Star-Advertiser that lava fountains were shooting 150 feet into the air about 5:30 p.m. and that lava had spread over a 200-yard-wide area behind a house in Leilani Estates.

The eruption follows a series of strong earthquakes over recent days, and officials had been warning residents all week they should be prepared to evacuate as an eruption would give little warning. Leilani Estates had a population of 1,560 in the 2010 census, but residents say the evacuations could affect thousands of people.

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Credit: WTHR

The area has experienced hundreds of small earthquakes in recent days. The largest, a magnitude 5.0, hit about 10:30 am Thursday. It was centered on the southeastern coast of the island of Hawaii, with a depth of four miles. Extremely high levels of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas have been detected in the evacuation area, the Civil Defense Agency tweeted.

The Hawaii Volcano Observatory said white vapor and blue fumes began emanating from the cracked areas Thursday afternoon, followed by spatter, blobs of lava blown into the air, just before 5 pm.

“Living on a volcano, everybody has got pretty thick skin. They know the risk,” said Ryan Finlay, who lives in Pahoa and runs an online trade school. “Lava for the most part has flown to the ocean the last 30 years. Everybody gets in a comfort zone. The last couple weeks, everything changed.”

The eruption followed some 100 small earthquakes in recent days and began around 4.45 pm local time, according to the agency. US Geological Survey authorities of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory unit were both on the ground and headed into the air to assess the eruption.

No deaths or injuries have been reported.


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