Quakes causing Big Island damage
Authorities ready to evacuate another 1000 residents
Earthquakes have damaged roads and buildings on Hawaii’s Big Island as ash emissions stream from Kilauea volcano. The strongest shaking recorded yesterday 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 looms. 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 yesterday decreased from Wednesday.
There were occasional bursts of ash coming from the crater causing ash to fall downwind to several communities, though there were only trace amounts, said the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Ash plumes on Wednesday had spouted as high as 3660m into the air, scientists said.
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 2000 residents.
Dense, large rocks roughly 60cm in diameter were found in a parking lot a few hundred metres away from Kilauea’s summit crater, which reflect
Lava continues to rise from fissures in the Big Island’s Leilani Estates, while the ash rising from Kilauea Volcano provides a dramatic backdrop for golfers.
the “most energetic explosions yet observed and could reflect the onset of steam-driven explosive activity”, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a statement.
Scientists say earthquakes may shake loose rocks underground and open up new tunnels for lava to flow.
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 was 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.
Hawaii Army National Guard Brigadier General Kenneth Hara, the task force commander, said he’s an- ticipating potentially having to evacuate about 1000 people, based on what he’s been told by Hawaii County. But he said some people may choose to stay behind because they are selfsufficient.
Hara said there are currently about 1200 soldiers and nine UH-60 helicopters training on the Big Island.
He may also request forces from the US Pacific Command if needed.
On Wednesday, the volcano discharged ash because of rocks falling into the summit, US Geological Survey geophysicist Mike Poland said.
“There is very little wind at the summit,” he said.
“The plume, it’s not near as ashy as it was yesterday, and it’s rising more or less vertically over the summit region.”
Scientists remained on alert for more violent activity. Geologists have warned that the summit could have a separate explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash kilometres into the sky. But it’s not certain when or if that might happen.
For those on the ground near the lava vents, health warnings were issued because of dangerous volcanic gases.
Several fissures remain active, producing lava spatter. Lava from one fissure that had been clearing a path toward the ocean, about 3km away.