Philippine volcano shows signs of calming, but danger remains

By Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters) – A Philippine volcano that has been spewing ash for days appeared to be calming down on Thursday, but seismologists said the danger of an eruption remained high and authorities warned evacuees not to return to their homes.

Some residents took advantage of what they perceived as a lull in the activity of Taal, one of country’s most active and deadliest volcanoes, to return home even though a 14 kms (nine mile) exclusion zone remained in place.

“We are analyzing what this seeming calm of the volcano means,” Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told reporters.

The lake inside Taal has dried up, Bornas said, which was to be expected since it began spewing lava fountains a day after it shot giant clouds of ash miles into the air on Sunday.

Phivolcs said volcanic activity had “generally waned to weak emission of steam-laden plumes”. Even so, it had recorded more than 100 tremors since Wednesday, meaning magma was still rising.

More than 53,000 residents have abandoned their homes around Taal to take shelter in evacuation centers, but thousands more are refusing to leave or have already drifted back to check on their animals and possessions.

Power has been restored in some areas in nearby Tagaytay city where business owners were cleaning away the ash and preparing to start trading again.

Although Taal is one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes at only 311 meters (1,020 feet) high, it can be deadly. One eruption killed more than 1,300 people in 1911.

Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, with the most recent in 1977. The Philippines lies on the “Ring of Fire”, a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.

(Additional reporting by Jay Ereno in Cavite; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Philippines struggles to evacuate reluctant villagers near volcano

By Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters) – Nearly 40,000 people have been evacuated from near a Philippine volcano that could erupt violently at any moment, authorities said on Tuesday, but thousands more are refusing to leave or have already drifted back.

A cloud of ash and fountains of lava gushed for a third day from the crater of Taal, which lies in the middle of a lake about 70 km (45 miles) south of the center of the Philippines capital Manila.

Everyone living within 14 km (9 miles) of the volcano has been ordered to leave: potentially as many as 300,000 people, though disaster agency spokesman Mark Timbal said he believed the actual number who had been there was much lower.

Officially, 38,200 have now been evacuated, the agency said.

The Taal Volcano spews ash as it continues to errupt in Tagaytay City, Philippines, January 14, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Local officials complained that many others were complicating the evacuation effort by staying put.

“I had to put Talisay under lockdown to prevent residents, who were already in the evacuation centers from returning,” said Gerry Natanauan, mayor of one town that is well within the danger zone of the 311 meter (1,020-foot) volcano.

“They wanted to check their homes, possessions and animals, but they’re not supposed to do that because it is very dangerous.”

Although Taal is one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes, it has a deadly history: an eruption in 1911 killed more than 1,300 people.

Several new fissures have opened, emitting plumes of steam, while dozens of tremors were felt as far as in Tagaytay city, a popular tourist destination 32 km (20 miles) away.

RISK OF DEVASTATION

If an eruption happened, nobody would be able to return to their homes because they would be devastated, said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs).

“The threat is really real,” he told a media briefing.

However, many refused to heed the warnings.

In part of Balete town, which sits on the edge of the danger zone, Red Cross trucks were sent to bring out 1,000 residents, but they left with only 130 because people thought they were far enough from the volcano, local authorities said.

No casualties have been reported so far, and seismologists said there was a chance this eruption could subside, but the signs still point to an imminent explosion.

Visiting the area on Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte joked that the government could try a traditional way to calm the volcano down.

“You should go there and, you know, say a little prayer and offer something. Let’s go by the primitive way of doing it just like what our forefathers would do,” he was quoted as saying by the Inquirer.Net website.

Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, most recently in 1977. A 1754 eruption lasted for months. The Philippines lies on the “Ring of Fire”, a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.

In Manila, government offices reopened on Tuesday after being closed on Monday because of a fine layer of ash that drifted from the volcano, but schools remained shut and many people still wore face masks.

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Alex Richardson)

Volcano erupts on Italian island of Stromboli, kills one person

Ash rises after a volcano eruption in Stromboli, Italy, July 3, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. Gernot Werner Gruber via REUTERS

By Angelo Amante

ROME (Reuters) – A volcano on the Italian island of Stromboli erupted on Wednesday, releasing hot trapped magma in a powerful explosion, killing one person and enveloping the popular tourist destination in ash, witnesses and local officials said.

The person, believed to be a tourist, was killed by falling stones during a walk, a rescue service official said. A second person was injured.

Ash rises after a volcano eruption in Stromboli, Italy, July 3, 2019 in this still image obtained from a social media video. Gernot Werner Gruber via REUTERS

Ash rises after a volcano eruption in Stromboli, Italy, July 3, 2019 in this still image obtained from a social media video. Gernot Werner Gruber via REUTERS

The unexpected eruption started fires on the western side of the small Mediterranean island, which lies north of Sicily, off the toe of Italy. Fire crews were being called in from nearby locations and a Canadair plane was already in action.

“We saw the explosion from the hotel. There was a loud roar,” said Michela Favorito, who works in a hotel near Fico Grande, on the east side of the island.

“We plugged our ears and after this a cloud of ash swept over us. The whole sky is full of ash, a fairly large cloud,” she told Reuters.

Fiona Carter, a British tourist on the island of Panarea, some 27 km (17 miles) from Stromboli, heard the blast.

“We turned around to see a mushroom cloud coming from Stromboli. Everyone was in shock. Then red hot lava started running down the mountain towards the little village of Ginostra,” she told Reuters.

“The cloud got bigger, white and gray. It enveloped Ginostra and now the cloud has covered Stromboli entirely. Several boats set off for Stromboli,” she added.

Stefano Branca, an expert with the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (INGV), said there had been a “paroxysmal eruption” on the island, when high-pressure magma explodes from a shallow, underground reservoir.

“These are events of great intensity and quite rare,” he told Reuters.

Tourists often climb to the 924-metre (3,000-foot) summit of the volcano and peer into its crater, with small puffs of molten rock regularly blasted into the sky. It was not clear if anyone was on the crater at the time of the blast.

According to the geology.com website, Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet and has been erupting almost continuously since 1932.

The island was the setting for a 1950 movie starring Ingrid Bergman and, with other islands in the Aeolian archipelago, has become a favorite location in recent decades for holiday homes for the rich and famous.

(Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Frances Kerry and Peter Graff)

Papua New Guinea volcanic eruptions force 15,000 from their homes

FILE PHOTO - Ash billows from Mount Ulawun during a volcanic eruption, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea June 26, 2019 in this still image taken from social media video. Eroli Tamara via REUTERS

By Alison Bevege

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Volcanic eruptions in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have forced 15,000 villagers in the country’s northeast to flee their homes, aid agencies said on Sunday.

Mount Ulawun on PNG’s northeastern island of New Britain exploded suddenly on Wednesday, shooting an ash column 18 km (11.18 miles) into the air, while nearby Manam erupted on Friday, sending dangerous pyroclastic flows down its slopes.

There were no reported casualties but the eruptions destroyed homes, plantations and wells, leaving villagers without food and water while ash columns disrupted domestic flights.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said as of Sunday, 3,775 people had fled the Manam eruption and 11,047 people from the Mount Ulawun eruption and taken shelter in refugee centers.

Volcanic ash has blanketed the area with tiny glass-like particles that can permanently damage the lungs, leading to sickness or death.

Leo Mapmani of the West New Britain Provincial Disaster Centre said health risks from the ash falls meant people were unable to return to their homes while the dust would damage food crops if rains did not wash it off soon.

“If it is on the hilltops and the treetops and the wind blows, people will inhale it,” he told Reuters by telephone from West New Britain’s provincial capital of Kimbe.

Manam Island resident Jordan Sauba told local media his house was destroyed by ash and stones.

“We had nowhere to go so we went under the house and hid there for at least eight hours,” he said from Manam Island.

PNG Red Cross, provincial governments, provincial disaster centers and the Salvation Army have taken emergency supplies to the shelters, IFRC PNG head Udaya Regmi told Reuters on Sunday.

It was unclear when villagers would be able to return to their homes, he said.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape visited the Ulawun refuge shelters in West New Britain province on Sunday. Marape had previously said he would send the defense force to help.

Steve Saunders, principal geodetic surveyor at the Rabaul Volcano Observatory told Reuters that Manam was expected to continue to erupt with active lava flows from the summit to the sea.

“Satellites are monitoring the gas and temperatures and we’re monitoring deformation to see if we have any uplift,” he said.

(Reporting by Alison Bevege; Editing by Sam Holmes)

 

Indonesia searches for survivors after volcano triggers deadly tsunami

Rescue team members search for victims among debris after a tsunami hit at Rajabasa district in South Lampung, Indonesia, December 23, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Ardiansyah/ via REUTERS

By Fergus Jensen

LABUAN, Indonesia (Reuters) – Indonesian military and rescue teams fanned out across a stretch of coastline on Monday, hoping to find survivors of a tsunami triggered by an underwater landslide from a volcano that has been erupting for months.

Authorities called for vigilance amid the spewing of ash by Anak Krakatau, a volcanic island where a crater collapse late on Saturday together with a high tide set off waves that smashed into coastal areas, killing at least 281 people.

Rescuers using heavy machinery and their bare hands searched through debris, pulling out bodies in the worst-affected areas on the west coast of Java island, where and hundreds of soldiers and volunteers looked for victims along a 100 km (60 mile) stretch of shore.

More than 1,000 people were injured and about 12,000 residents had to move to higher ground, with a high-tide warning extended to Wednesday.

The vast archipelago, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, has suffered its worst annual death toll from disasters in more than a decade.

Earthquakes flattened parts of the island of Lombok in July and August, and a double quake-and-tsunami killed more than 2,000 people on a remote part of Sulawesi island in September.

President Joko Widodo visited the affected area on Monday and praised the authorities for swift action in responding to the latest disaster.

“The speed and accuracy in the field is to be appreciated,” he said.

Saturday’s tsunami came with almost no warning and destroyed more than 700 buildings, from small shops and houses to villas and hotels. The time between the landslide and waves hitting the coast was just 24 minutes.

Dented vehicles were crushed together by a wave that carried chunks of metal, felled trees and left roof tiles, wooden beams and household items strewn across roads. Some cars ended up in rice fields.

Nurjana, 20, dashed to the mountains after the tsunami hit. Her beachside snack stall was washed away.

“I opened the door straight away and saved myself. I jumped over the wall,” she told Reuters.

“Everything is destroyed.”

HEIGHTENED ACTIVITY

Aerial video footage of the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra showed Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatau) still erupting on Sunday night, with sustained bursts of white smoke and ash filling the sky.

The meteorology agency estimated the collapsed area of the volcanic island, once known as Krakatoa, was about 64 hectares, or the size of 90 soccer fields.

Scientists had earlier said an underwater landslide was the likely cause.

Krakatau erupted in 1883 killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis. Anak Krakatau is the island that emerged from the area in 1927 and has been growing ever since.

The high waves isolated hundreds of people on Sebesi island, about 12 km from the volcano.

A man carries a chicken as he searches for belonging at his house hit by the tsunami in Pandeglang, Banten province, Indonesia, December 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A man carries a chicken as he searches for belonging at his house hit by the tsunami in Pandeglang, Banten province, Indonesia, December 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

“We are completely paralyzed,” Syamsiar, a village secretary on the island, told Metro TV, calling for food and medicine.

Widodo, who is running for re-election in April, told disaster agencies to install early warning systems, but experts said that unlike with tsunami caused by earthquakes, little could have been done to alert people that waves were coming.

“Tsunamis from volcanic flank collapse are generated right at the coast and often close to populations,” said Eddie Dempsey, lecturer in structural geology at Britain’s University of Hull.

“The interval between the volcanic collapse and the arrival of the waves is minimal.”

The timing of the disaster over the Christmas season evoked memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004, which killed 226,000 people in 14 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Families streamed out of the area on Monday for fear of further tsunami, jamming roads already blocked by debris.

Fishermen told how a light breeze was followed by a huge wave that smashed together wooden fishing boats moored off the coast and pulled down the trees they were tied to.

A teenage boy cries after finding his relatives among the ruins of his house which was hit by the tsunami in Pandeglang, Banten province, Indonesia, December 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A teenage boy cries after finding his relatives among the ruins of his house which was hit by the tsunami in Pandeglang, Banten province, Indonesia, December 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

TANGLED WRECKAGE

Excavators were being used to move debris and wreckage, including piles of steel roofing tangled like spaghetti. Medics were sent in with the military, while groups of police and soldiers reached remote areas.

A team of volunteers who worked on disasters in Lombok and Palu pulled bodies out of damaged beachside retreats.

“This year has been pretty busy. The disasters have been more severe,” said Muhammad Idris, who led the team.

Television footage showed how the tsunami washed away an outdoor stage where Indonesian rock band Seventeen was performing for about 200 guests at a party for utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN).

Forty-one PLN employees and their relatives died. At least four band members and support crew were killed, lead singer Riefian “Ifan” Fajarsyah told followers in a tearful Instagram account.

Cici Paramita, 27, remembers hearing volcanic eruptions on Saturday afternoon, as she in front of her house about 50 meters back from the beach but said they were “not unusual”.

But then she heard an “extraordinary” rumbling.

She dashed inside to save her year-old baby and later found her other child, 8, alive among the wreckage outside.

“I was afraid for my life,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Johan Purnomo and Adi Kurniawan in PANDEGLANG and Fanny Potkin, Tabita Diela and Wilda Asmarni in JAKARTA; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Martin Petty; Editing by Paul Tait)

Volcano on Indonesian island of Bali hurls out ash and lava

Mount Agung volcano erupts in Bali, Indonesia, July 2, 2018 photo obtained from social media.

DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) – A volcano on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali erupted late on Monday, hurling lava and ash kilometers into the air and prompting panicked residents to flee their homes. Mount Agung in northeast Bali has been rumbling since late last year and on Friday there was a temporary closure of the island’s international airport, disrupting flights and stranding thousands of travelers.

Mount Agung volcano erupts during the night, as seen from Bugbug village in Karangasem regency in Bali, Indonesia, July 2, 2018. Picture taken July 2, 2018. Andre Ardiansyah/Handout via REUTERS

Mount Agung volcano erupts during the night, as seen from Bugbug village in Karangasem regency in Bali, Indonesia, July 2, 2018. Picture taken July 2, 2018. Andre Ardiansyah/Handout via REUTERS

Indonesia’s national disaster mitigation agency said residents heard a loud explosion and saw flaming volcanic rocks thrown at least 2 km (1.2 miles) out of the crater. The eruption lasted for about seven minutes and photographs posted by the agency showed glowing lava streaming from the crater, setting fire to vegetation. “Residents have started evacuating voluntarily,” said Sutopo Nugroho, a spokesman for the agency, adding the airport remained operational and there was no change in the volcano’s alert status.The last time Agung staged a major eruption was in 1963, when more than 1,000 people died and several villages on its slopes were razed.

The airport on Bali reopened on Friday after ash had forced a brief closure and the cancellation of more than 300 flights.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Ed Davies and Andrew Roche)

Guatemala ends victim searches at volcano where 110 died

Eva Ascon, is embraced by a family member as rescue workers search for her rest of her family at the affected by the Fuego volcano at San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla, Guatemala June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

By Sofia Menchu

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemala on Sunday ended its victim search efforts in the zone that suffered most deaths and injuries from the Fuego volcano eruption, its disaster agency said.

At least 110 people died and 197 are still missing after violent eruptions that began two weeks ago, according to disaster agency CONRED.

Eva Ascon, looks on next to rescue workers as they search for her rest of her family at the affected by the Fuego volcano at San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla Guatemala June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Eva Ascon, looks on next to rescue workers as they search for her rest of her family at the affected by the Fuego volcano at San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla Guatemala June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

“The search efforts are permanently suspended in the towns San Miguel Los Lotes and El Rodeo in the Escuintla municipality… the zone is uninhabitable and high risk,” CONRED said in a statement on Sunday.

The Fuego volcano, whose name means “Fire” in Spanish, is emitting four or five minor explosions daily and shooting columns of ash up to 15,420 feet (4,700 meters) above sea level, CONRED said.

Escuintla is operating 12 shelters for nearly 2,800 people displaced from homes that were swallowed by ash and dirt, while more than 770 people are staying in shelters in nearby areas.

Some survivors lost nearly all members of extended families after the volcano sent fast-moving currents of dust, lava and gas down its slopes in its greatest eruption in four decades.

(Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Diane Craft)

Minor explosion at Hawaii volcano spews more ash into the air

FILE PHOTO: Journalists and National Guard soldiers watch as lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

(Reuters) – Another small explosion at the summit of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano shot more ash high into the atmosphere, putting communities in the southern part of the Big Island at risk, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The volcano, which has been erupting since early May, has sent occasional columns of ash and volcanic gas into the atmosphere at between 10,000 (3,050 meters) and 30,000 feet (9,145 meters) above sea level, it said.

On Sunday, another explosion spewed ash from the volcano, creating a driving hazard for roads on parts of the Big Island.

A fissure in the volcano spewed molten rock 160 feet (49 meters) on Tuesday, slightly lower than the 180 feet (55 meters) it reached from Saturday night into Sunday, pushing a steady flow of lava into the ocean, the USGS said.

A representative for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The eruption, which entered its 40th day on Tuesday, stands as the most destructive in the United States since at least the violent 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state that reduced hundreds of square miles to wasteland and killed nearly 60 people, according to geologist Scott Rowland, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The Hawaii eruption has caused no casualties, but lava flows have swallowed about 600 homes since May 3, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said last week.

Vacationland, a private development believed to comprise about 160 homes, was completely erased, and at least 330 houses were devoured by lava at Kapoho Beach Lots, Kim said.

On Saturday, hundreds of construction workers and volunteers, including officials from the Hawaii National Guard and the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, began building 20 temporary housing units in Pahoa for families forced from their homes.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

In Guatemala, woman searches for 50 relatives buried by volcano

Eufemia Garcia, 48, who lost 50 members of her family during the eruption of the Fuego volcano, argues with a police officer trying to enter to search for her family in San Miguel Los Lotes Escuintla, June 9, 2018. Picture taken June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

By Sofia Menchu

SAN MIGUEL LOS LOTES, Guatemala (Reuters) – Eufemia Garcia watched in horror as Guatemala’s Fuego volcano sent scalding ash and gas surging over her home a week ago, burying her children and grandson among 50 of her extended family. She has been searching for their remains ever since.

At least 110 people died after Fuego erupted last Sunday, pushing fast-moving currents of dust, lava and gas down the volcano’s slopes in its greatest eruption in four decades, and close to 200 more are believed buried beneath the waste.

Eufemia Garcia, 48, who lost 50 members of her family during the eruption of the Fuego volcano, looks at rescue workers as they search for her family in San Miguel Los Lotes, Escuintla, June 9, 2018. Picture taken June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Eufemia Garcia, 48, who lost 50 members of her family during the eruption of the Fuego volcano, looks at rescue workers as they search for her family in San Miguel Los Lotes, Escuintla, June 9, 2018. Picture taken June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Among them, Garcia believes, her nine siblings and their families as well as her mother, her own grown-up children and a grandson, making her family possibly the hardest hit in a disaster that officials admit was made worse by delays in official warnings.

The hamlet of San Miguel Los Lotes on the lush southern flank of the volcano was almost completely swallowed by several meters of ash, and formal search efforts have been suspended until the still-erupting volcano stabilizes.

Defying the suspension order, each morning, Garcia, 48, leaves the shelter she now sleeps in, grabs a pickaxe or a shovel and heads into the danger zone, where groups of volunteers and other families dig down through ash hardened by rain and sun to try and reach their homes below.

Another desperate survivor, Bryan Rivera, is searching for 13 missing relatives. All he has found so far in the dust and desolation is a guitar his 12-year-old sister had loved to play.

“I’m not going to give up until I have a part of my family and am able to give them a Christian burial,” Garcia said, her features drawn with fatigue and grief but her voice unfaltering.

A fruit seller who lived for more than three decades with her extended family in Los Lotes, Garcia said she was out purchasing eggs when she saw the volcanic flow racing toward her village.

She sprinted back to her family’s homes, where uncles and a brother, children and cousins were preparing for a lunch to celebrate a sister visiting from a nearby town.

Rapping furiously at one door after the next, she cried for them to flee. Few heeded the warnings. Her 75-year-old mother decided she could not outrun the danger.

Eufemia Garcia, 48, who lost 50 members of her family during the eruption of the Fuego volcano, points the area where use to be her house in San Miguel Los Lotes Escuintla, June 9, 2018. Picture taken June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Eufemia Garcia, 48, who lost 50 members of her family during the eruption of the Fuego volcano, points the area where use to be her house in San Miguel Los Lotes Escuintla, June 9, 2018. Picture taken June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

“Let God’s will be done,” she said.

Desperate, Garcia ran, jumping over fences together with fleeing neighbors. From a safe distance, she saw the burning flow rise to the roof of her house, submerging it completely with her son Jaime, 21, inside. She watched as the ash rushed toward her daughter Vilma Liliana, 23, who sprinted for safety barefoot but was unable to outpace its terrible path.

Her other daughter Sheiny Rosmery, 28, stayed at home, her son in her arms. The visiting sister and her husband have not been found.

With almost no family left, she does not know where she will live next, or what she will do to survive. But for now, she says, all that matters is the search.

She ticks off a list of her missing, including her three children, her mother, her grandson, brothers, sisters, nephews, children of nephews and brothers-in-law, generations of a relatives among the clutch of families that settled in Los Lotes in the 1970s.

The only survivors are Garcia and a brother who long ago moved away.

“I’ve looked here in the morgue and in another morgue, but there is no sign of them,” she said, standing in front of a row of coffins at a makeshift mortuary.

“My family is buried. All 50 of them.”

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Delphine Schrank; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Lisa Shumaker)

Explosion at Hawaii volcano spews ash as lava flows into sea

Gas and steam rise from a volcanic fissure in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Reuters) – A small explosion at the summit of Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea Volcano on Sunday sent ash spewing into the air, creating a driving hazard for roads on parts of the Big Island, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Lava fountains from a fissure in the volcano reached as high as 180 feet (55 meters) from Saturday night into Sunday, pushing flows of molten rock into the ocean, it said.

“Seismic activity at the crater continues with gas explosions and ash eruptions under 10,000 feet (3,050 meters). While the eruption is never predictable, conditions appear stable for the moment,” Richard Rapoza, a spokesman for Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said in an email.

Journalists and National Guard soldiers watch as lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Journalists and National Guard soldiers watch as lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

The eruption, which entered its 39th day on Sunday, stands as the most destructive in the United States since at least the violent 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state that reduced hundreds of square miles (km) to wasteland and killed nearly 60 people, according to geologist Scott Rowland, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

No one has died in this Hawaii eruption but some 600 homes have been swallowed by lava flows from Kilauea since May 3, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said last week.

Vacationland, a private development believed to comprise about 160 homes, was completely erased, and at least 330 houses were devoured by lava at Kapoho Beach Lots, Kim said.

(Reporting by Jolyn Rosa in Honolulu and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Writing by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Frank McGurty and Sandra Maler)