Evacuation as volcano spews lava in Hawaii
A MANDATORY evacuation order remained in effect in part of Hawaii yesterday after the Kilauea volcano erupted, spitting red-hot lava out of ground fissures and releasing dangerous gases into residential areas.
The eruption began around 4.45pm local time on Thursday, causing hours of lava spatter and gas bursts to erupt in the Leilani Estates subdivision of the US state’s Big Island, prompting the mandatory evacuation of some 1 700 people.
“White, hot vapour and blue fume emanated from an area of cracking in the eastern part of the subdivision,” the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. The area has about 770 structures.
The fissures stopped erupting at around 6.30pm local time, according to the US Geological Survey, which warned “additional erupting fissures and new lava outbreaks may occur”.
The Civil Defence Agency urged those under mandatory evacuation orders to steer clear, as fire authorities were detecting extremely high levels of dangerous sulphur dioxide gas in the zone.
The eruption came after hundreds of small earthquakes in recent days that followed the collapse of a crater floor on the Puu Oo volcanic cone. A 5.0-magnitude earthquake on Thursday morning south of the cone had triggered rock-falls and potential additional collapse of the crater, USGS said, and sent a short-lived but massive pink plume of ash wafting into the air.
The Pacific island state’s governor David Ige signed an emergency proclamation releasing disaster funds to the Big Island in the eruption’s wake, as local news footage showed streams of lava snaking through forested areas near Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Local community centres in the broader district, home to some 10 000 people, were open to residents affected by the threat, Hawaii’s emergency management agency said. Using his drone, area resident Jeremiah Osuna captured video footage of the red-hot lava flow in the region, which he described as the opening of a “fire curtain” that left him feeling shock and awe.
“It was like if you put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turned it on -- a lot of earth and pressure and fire just moving around,” he said.
Governor Ige activated the archipelago state’s National Guard troops, and told residents to pay heed to official warnings.