Hawaii’s famed Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting continuously since 1983 and has long been a destination for tourists, underwent a new eruption yesterday that threatened neighborhoods with red-hot lava on the eastern edge of Hawaii Island, prompting evacuations. Eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano sent molten lava through forest land and bubbling up on paved streets.
Sirens are now sounding in Leilani Estates. More drone video shows the fountains of lava in the subdivision. Lava is shooting up then piling up around cracks in the ground. Video from Jeremiah Osuna. https://t.co/YRuq3aGYnh pic.twitter.com/nrSfhyJ0eZ
— Lynn Kawano (@LynnKawano) May 4, 2018
The statement says local emergency officials and National Guard members are helping residents get out of their homes. Two shelters are open and officials have said more than 100 people are staying at them. Nearly 1,500 residents were ordered to evacuate from their volcano-side homes after the volcano erupted and sent molten lava through forest land and bubbling up on paved streets.
A giant crack about 500 feet long formed directly in the lower-elevation neighborhood of Leilani Estates, which has a population of about 1,500. From the crack, lava was shooting like a fountain to heights of up to 100 feet — as if a garden hose filled with running water had been sliced along its length, said U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist Wendy Stovall, an expert on Kilauea.
Residents said they felt the temblor, the biggest in recent days to hit Hawaii Island, which has been rattled with hundreds of small earthquakes since last week. The larger quake was followed up by several smaller tremors ranging in magnitude from 2.5 to 2.8.
Earlier Thursday, seismic activity had flagged a good sign but officials continued to stress that residents along Kilauea’s east rift zone should continue to prepare for a possible eruption. The first signs of trouble in Leilani Estates came about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, when residents reported plumes of smoke spewing from cracks in the road.
— Hawaii Volcanoes NPS (@Volcanoes_NPS) May 3, 2018
The USGS said sulfur gas is noticeable around the fissure. The agency said new cracks could appear in the ground, gushing out lava, but experts can’t say when or where they might open up. Areas downhill remain at risk of being inundated by lava. More than 300 earthquakes have been reported in recent days on the volcano’s eastern flank, with a magnitude 5 temblor felt about six hours before the eruption began.
Kilauea is Hawaii Island’s youngest volcano, and is located on the southeastern flank of the iconic Mauna Loa. “USGS volcanologists are on the ground and we are monitoring the situation 24/7,” Stovall said. “How the eruption proceeds from this point is yet to be seen. … It just depends upon whether there is enough magma in the system to keep on supplying what’s been coming out of the surface.”
Kilauea volcano has a very wide region of volcanic activity. The eruption in 1983 began in what is the middle elevations of the volcano’s east side, known as the Middle East Rift Zone. Separately, the summit of the volcano began erupting in 2008, and continues to emit lava to this day. Thursday’s eruption occurred in the lower elevations of the volcano’s east side, known as the Lower East Rift Zone. “It’s unusual to have an eruption at the summit simultaneous to an eruption in the Lower East Rift Zone. This is new territory,” Stovall said.