Ex­plo­sion fears

Vol­cano shoot­ing rocks the size of mi­crowave ovens

The Star Malaysia - - World -

‘Bal­lis­tic blocks’ be­ing shot from Hawaii vol­cano could mark on­set of ma­jor erup­tions.

HOnOlUlU: “Bal­lis­tic blocks” the size of mi­crowave ovens shot from Hawaii’s Ki­lauea vol­cano in what may be the start of ex­plo­sive erup­tions that could spew huge ash plumes and hurl smaller rocks for miles, the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said.

Such erup­tions, last seen nearly a cen­tury ago, have been a loom­ing threat since Ki­lauea, one of the world’s most ac­tive vol­ca­noes, erupted nearly two weeks ago.

Ex­plo­sions in Ki­lauea’s crater sparked an avi­a­tion red alert due to risks the ash plume could blow into air­craft routes and dam­age jet en­gines.

More ex­plo­sions are ex­pected and may be more pow­er­ful, the USGS warned.

These steam-driven blasts could send a 20,000-foot (6,100m) ash plume out of the crater, hurl­ing 10 to 12 tonne boulders up to half a mile (800m) and scat­ter peb­ble-sized rocks over 12 miles (19km), the USGS has said.

This type of erup­tion has the po­ten­tial to carpet the Big Is­land in much thicker ash than cur­rent dust­ings and pos­si­bly spread the pow­der and vol­canic smog across the Hawai­ian is­lands and far­ther afield if it en­ters the strato­sphere.

“This morn­ing dense bal­lis­tic blocks up to 60cm across were found in the park­ing lot a few hun­dred me­tres from Hale­mau­mau (Ki­lauea’s crater),” the USGS said in a state­ment.

“These re­flect the most en­er­getic ex­plo­sions yet ob­served and could re­flect the on­set of steam-driven ex­plo­sive ac­tiv­ity.

A 4.2 mag­ni­tude earth­quake at the vol­cano at 8.36am prompted au­thor­i­ties to is­sue an alert re­as­sur- ing rat­tled Big Is­land res­i­dents that there was no risk of a tsunami from the vol­canic ac­tiv­ity.

Earth­quakes were dam­ag­ing roads and build­ings on Hawaii’s Big Is­land as ash emis­sions streamed from Ki­lauea vol­cano.

The strong­est shak­ing was recorded around 8.30am, mea­sured as a 4.4-mag­ni­tude earth­quake.

The floor of the sum­mit crater has also dropped about 90cm, as the threat of a strong, ex­plo­sive erup­tion at the top of the vol­cano loomed.

The ground was de­flat­ing as the crater’s lava lev­els fell, caus­ing stress faults around the crater to move, re­sult­ing in the earth­quakes. More were ex­pected.

Ash spewed from the sum­mit at Hawaii’s Ki­lauea vol­cano, though emis­sions de­creased from Tues­day.

These plumes are sep­a­rate from the lava erup­tions hap­pen­ing roughly 40km away from sum­mit, where about 20 lava fis­sures have de­stroyed more than two dozen homes and forced the evac­u­a­tion of about 2,000 res­i­dents.

Cracks formed on a highway near the en­trance to Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park, said the Hawaii Po­lice De­part­ment. Much of the park re­mains closed.

“We’re all safe, and I wish they’d open the park back up, but they have to keep it safe for every­body,” said Ken McGil­vray, an area res­i­dent.

“We live on a vol­cano!” Hawaii Gov­er­nor David Ige said the state is form­ing a joint task force that could han­dle mass evacuations of the Big Is­land’s Puna dis­trict if lava from Ki­lauea vol­cano covers ma­jor roads and iso­lates the area. — AP/Reuters

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