Quakes caus­ing Big Is­land dam­age

Au­thor­i­ties ready to evac­u­ate an­other 1000 res­i­dents

The New Zealand Herald - - World - Sophia Yan — AP

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.

Pho­tos / AP

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