New fis­sures open as ac­tiv­ity in­ten­si­fies

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By TOM CALLIS

Ki­lauea vol­cano erupted new fis­sures Fri­day in­side Leilani Es­tates and pro­duced the largest earth­quake in Hawaii since 1975, caus­ing res­i­dents around the is­land to take cover.

Six fis­sures had opened by late Fri­day, with one send­ing lava onto Po­hoiki Road, mak­ing it im­pass­able. Two homes have been con­firmed de­stroyed and hun­dreds of res­i­dents have been dis­placed.

The mag­ni­tude-6.9 quake oc­curred at 12:32 p.m. on the vol­cano’s south flank and was one of sev­eral large tem­blors Fri­day that shook build­ings and rat­tled nerves.

Some busi­nesses and schools closed for the day, and 14,000 Hawaii Electric

Light Co. cus­tomers lost power for a few hours in East Hawaii. Land­slides also were re­ported along the Ha­makua Coast.

Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park closed be­cause of dam­age from the quake. About 2,600 vis­i­tors were evac­u­ated.

The erup­tion started Thurs­day in­side Leilani Es­tates on

Ki­lauea’s lower East Rift Zone. It fol­lowed sev­eral days of heightened seis­mic ac­tiv­ity and the col­lapse of Pu‘u ‘O‘o’s cone on Mon­day. An­other ash plume was seen over the cone fol­low­ing the strong quakes Fri­day.

In Leilani, fis­sures have been erupt­ing one af­ter an­other, but not all have been ac­tive at the same time. Lava flows have so far re­mained near the vents, but ge­ol­o­gists warn that can quickly change.

Each vent is lo­cated around the lower end of the sub­di­vi­sion, which is un­der a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion since Thurs­day.

Janet Sny­der, spokes­woman for the Mayor’s Of­fice, said the sixth fis­sure opened at or near the in­ter­sec­tion of Leilani Av­enue and Po­hoiki Road.

A com­mand post at that in­ter­sec­tion was re­lo­cated to the Pahoa Fire Sta­tion.

That in­ter­sec­tion is near La­nipuna Gar­dens, which also is un­der a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion order. Sny­der said the county was try­ing to get the re­main­ing res­i­dents in La­nipuna to leave. Shel­ters are open at the Pahoa and Keaau com­mu­nity cen­ters.

In re­sponse, the county closed High­way 132 from High­way 137 to Kaul­u­laau Road, po­lice said.

The county also is­sued an emer­gency wa­ter re­stric­tion for most of lower Puna. A county wa­ter line runs un­der Po­hoiki Road.

That area is near the Puna Geo­ther­mal Ven­ture power plant, which has been closed and se­cured, ac­cord­ing to the county.

High­way 130 also is closed past Leilani be­cause of haz­ardous gas emis­sions from the vents.

The U.S. Cen­sus Bureau es­ti­mates about 1,600 peo­ple live in Leilani.

Gas emis­sions re­main haz­ardous in Leilani. How­ever, county staff said not ev­ery­one has left.

No in­juries had been re­ported by Fri­day evening, though Civil De­fense Ad­min­is­tra­tor Talmadge Magno said one per­son might have suf­fered car­diac ar­rest as a re­sult of the event.

While county staff say there is a strict no-en­try pol­icy, Mayor Harry Kim said the county will try to ac­com­mo­date peo­ple who want to re­turn to their homes if it be­comes safe.

“All of us have got to re­mem­ber this is a tragedy on them, and we have to work with them on how to min­i­mize it as best as pos­si­ble,” he said.

Nine quakes of mag­ni­tude 4 or higher oc­curred near Ki­lauea’s East Rift Zone by Fri­day evening. Three were at least mag­ni­tude 5.

Michael Dewey, Suisan Fish Mar­ket man­ager, said the Hilo re­tail mar­ket closed for the day be­cause of tsunami fears. He es­ti­mated the wa­ter level there re­ceded 4 to 5 feet.

“Watch­ing the wa­ter re­cede was con­cern­ing, and the de­ci­sion was made by our safety man­ager to evac­u­ate the mar­ket,” he said. “The 6.9 was pretty in­tense.”

A vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion oc­curred at Valhalla and River­side apart­ments in Hilo af­ter the quakes, Sny­der said.

No tsunami was gen­er­ated, though Civil De­fense said small sea level changes were de­tected of 20 cen­time­ters in Hilo, 40 cen­time­ters in Kapoho and 15 cen­time­ters in Honu­apo.

The 6.9 quake oc­curred at about the same lo­ca­tion as a mag­ni­tude-7.2 tem­blor in 1975 that created a tsunami and killed two peo­ple.

Janet Babb, Hawai­ian Vol­cano Ob­ser­va­tory spokes­woman, said the quake was pro­duced as a re­sult of magma caus­ing stress on the flank. Ad­di­tional strong af­ter­shocks are pos­si­ble.

Babb said HVO ge­ol­o­gists are tak­ing sam­ples of the lava in Leilani that could tell them more about this erup­tion.

“The bot­tom line is the erup­tion is very dy­namic,” she said. “There still can be changes. This is not over.”

Cour­tesy of USGS

A fis­sure erupts Fri­day morn­ing at Leilani Av­enue and Kaupili Street.

HOLLYN JOHN­SON/Tri­bune-Her­ald

Po­lice direct traf­fic at a road blockade Fri­day at Pahoa Vil­lage Road and High­way 130 in Pahoa.

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