Hawaii vol­cano erupts at sum­mit

Erup­tion at Hawaii’s Ki­lauea vol­cano spews 9,100 me­tre col­umn of grey ash into sky

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - SOPHIA YAN AND CALEB JONES

PAHOA, HAWAII — Hawaii’s Ki­lauea vol­cano erupted be­fore dawn Thurs­day, spew­ing a grey plume of ash about 30,000 feet (9,100 me­tres) into the sky that rained down on a nearby town.

The ex­plo­sion at the sum­mit came shortly af­ter 4 a.m. fol­low­ing two weeks of vol­canic ac­tiv­ity that sent lava flows into neigh­bour­hoods and de­stroyed at least 26 homes. Sci­en­tists said the erup­tion was the most pow­er­ful in re­cent days, though it prob­a­bly lasted only a few min­utes.

Ge­ol­o­gists have warned that the vol­cano could be­come even more vi­o­lent, with in­creas­ing ash pro­duc­tion and the po­ten­tial that fu­ture blasts could hurl boul­ders from the sum­mit.

Toby Hazel, who lives in Pahoa, near the mountain, said she heard “a lot of boom­ing sounds” Thurs­day. Those came af­ter days of earth­quakes.

“It’s just time to go — it re­ally, re­ally is,” she said, pre­par­ing to leave town. “I feel so sorry for the peo­ple who don’t go, be­cause they don’t have the money, or don’t want to go to a shel­ter and leave their houses.”

Some peo­ple in the com­mu­nity clos­est to the vol­cano slept through the blast, said Kanani Aton, a spokesper­son for Hawaii County Civil De­fense, who spoke to rel­a­tives and friends in the town called Vol­cano.

At least one per­son who was awake heard noth­ing. Epic Lava tour op­er­a­tor John Tar­son is an early riser and said he learned about the erup­tion from an alert on his phone.

Tar­son said the ash plume looked dif­fer­ent than oth­ers he’s wit­nessed be­cause of its height. A video he shared on Face­book showed a tow­er­ing col­umn of ash reach­ing into a hazy sky.

“What I no­ticed is the plume was just rising straight into the air, and it was not tip­ping in any direc­tion,” he said. “We’ve been ex­pect­ing this, and a lot of peo­ple are go­ing to see it and get ex­cited and scared.”

Res­i­dents as far away as Hilo, about 30 miles (about 48 kilo­me­tres) from Ki­lauea, were notic­ing the vol­cano’s ef­fects. Pua’ena Ahn, who lives in Hilo, com­plained about hav­ing laboured breath­ing, itchy, wa­tery eyes and some skin ir­ri­ta­tion from air­borne ash.

A Na­tional Weather Ser­vice ash ad­vi­sory was in ef­fect until noon. Sev­eral schools closed be­cause of the risk of el­e­vated lev­els of sul­phur diox­ide.

The crater sits within Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park, which has been closed since May 11 as a safety pre­cau­tion over risks of a vi­o­lent erup­tion.

Sci­en­tists warned May 9 that a drop in the lava lake at the sum­mit might cre­ate con­di­tions for an ex­plo­sion that could fling ash and re­frig­er­a­tor-sized boul­ders into the air. Ge­ol­o­gists pre­dicted such a blast would mostly re­lease trapped steam from flash-heated ground­wa­ter. If it hap­pens, com­mu­ni­ties a mile or two away could be show­ered by pea-size fragments or dusted with ash.

Ki­lauea, one of the world’s most ac­tive vol­ca­noes, has been erupt­ing con­tin­u­ously since 1983. It’s among the five vol­ca­noes that form Hawaii’s Big Is­land, and the only one that’s ac­tively erupt­ing. An erup­tion in 1924 killed one per­son and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

Robert Hughes owns the Aloha Junction Bed and Break­fast, about a mile and a half from the crater. He said he didn’t hear any­thing and has yet to spot ash. So far, he said, Thurs­day has been a “nice rainy day.”

His busi­ness has been hit hard by fears of the vol­cano, a ma­jor at­trac­tion for visi­tors. He’s lost hun­dreds of reser­va­tions and had just three guests Thurs­day.

“In the old days, peo­ple used to love to come see the vol­cano. They’d even take their lit­tle post­cards, burn one cor­ner in the lava flow, mail them off, stuff like that,” he said. “Now they’re act­ing like it’s all su­per-dan­ger­ous and ev­ery­thing, but it just kind of oozes out.”

TAMIR KALIFA NEW YORK TIMES

Ste­fani Hin­kle pre­pares to evac­u­ate her home in Pahoa, Hawaii, af­ter an erup­tion from the Ki­lauea vol­cano, Thurs­day. The vol­cano erupted from its sum­mit on Thurs­day morn­ing, spew­ing an ash plume.

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