Kilauea volcano erupts on Hawaii’s Big Island

(Reuters) – The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island erupted on Sunday night, according to an advisory from the United States Geological Survey, followed by an earthquake that struck at the volcano’s south flank.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) recorded an earthquake of magnitude 4.4 located beneath Kīlauea Volcano’s south flank at 10:36 pm local time, according to the advisory.

The eruption was reported at the Halemaumau Crater of the Kilauea Volcano, the Hawaii county Civil Defense Agency said in a tweet early on Monday, requesting residents to stay indoors.

“Trade winds will push any embedded ash toward the Southwest. Fallout is likely in the Kau District in Wood Valley, Pahala, Naalehu and Ocean View,” the tweet added.

The eruption started with multiple fissures opening on the walls of Halemaumau crater, USGS said.

A picture from the USGS showed Kilauea’s summit illuminated by the hot lava with a plume of steam and gas bursting out of the volcano.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair and Derek Francis in Bengaluru, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Hawaii eruption could last years, destroy new areas: geologists

FILE PHOTO: Lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester/File Photo

(Reuters) – The eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano could last for months or years and threaten new communities on the Big Island, according to a report by U.S. government geologists.

A main risk is a possible change in the direction of a lava flow that would destroy more residential areas after at least 712 homes were torched and thousands of residents forced to evacuate since Kilauea began erupting on May 3, the report by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

A higher volume of molten rock is flowing underground from Kilauea’s summit lava reservoir than in previous eruptions, with supply to a single giant crack — fissure 8 — showing no sign of waning, according to the study published last week.

“If the ongoing eruption maintains its current style of activity at a high eruption rate, then it may take months to a year or two to wind down,” said the report designed to help authorities on the Big Island deal with potential risks from the volcano.

Lava is bursting from same area about 25 miles (40 km) down Kilauea’s eastern side as it did in eruptions of 1840, 1955 and 1960, the report said. The longest of those eruptions was in 1955. It lasted 88 days, separated by pauses in activity.

The current eruption could become the longest in the volcano’s recorded history, it added.

Geologists believe previous eruptions may have stopped as underground lava pressure dropped due to multiple fissures opening up in this Lower East Rift Zone, the report said.

The current eruption has coalesced around a single fissure, allowing lava pressure to remain high.

A 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) lava river now flows to the ocean from this “source cone” through an elevated channel about 52 to 72 feet (16 to 22 meters) above ground.

“The main hazard from the source cone and the channel system is a failure of the cone or channel walls, or blockage of the channel where it divides in narrower braids. Either could divert most, if not all, of the lava to a new course depending on where the breach occurs,” the report said.

The report said it only considered risks from a change in lava flow direction to communities to the north of the channel as residents there have not been evacuated, whereas residents to the south have already left their homes.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Hawaii volcano threatens power plant; mass evacuations possible

Lava advances towards a metal barrier in Puna, May 6, 2018. WXCHASING via REUTERS

By Terray Sylvester

PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) – Hawaii authorities scrambled to move tens of thousands of gallons of highly flammable chemicals from the path of lava on Thursday, and the state’s governor warned mass evacuations might be needed as the Kilauea volcano’s eruption became more violent.

After a new fissure opened on Wednesday about half a mile from a geothermal power plant, Hawaii Governor David Ige set up an emergency task force to remove the pentane used in the plant’s turbines. He cited estimates that if the fluid ignites, the resulting explosion could create a blast radius of up to one mile. (1.6 km)

The Puna Geothermal Venture plant sits at the edge of the Leilani Estates residential area on Hawaii’s Big Island where lava from 15 volcanic fissures has so far destroyed 36 structures, most of them homes, and forced the evacuation of around 2,000 residents.

“As more fissures open and toxic gas exposure increases, the potential of a larger scale evacuation increases,” Ige said in a tweet on Wednesday evening.

“A mass evacuation of the lower Puna District would be beyond current county and state capabilities, and would quickly overwhelm our collective resources,” Ige tweeted, saying in a separate post that he signed a request for federal disaster assistance.

The lower part of the Puna District, of which Leilani Gardens is a part, covers dozens of square miles and is home to many thousands of residents. It has the highest possible hazard risks for lava flows, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Exposure to very high levels of the sulfur dioxide gas emitted from the fissures can be life-threatening, experts say.

Geologists warned on Wednesday that Kilauea may be entering a more violent phase of explosive eruptions, the likes of which Hawaii has not seen in nearly a century.

Steam-driven explosive eruptions could hurl “ballistic blocks” weighing several tons upwards of half a mile and dust towns as far away as Hilo, some 25 miles (40 km) distant, with volcanic ash and smog.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where Kilauea is located, said on Wednesday it would close most of the park on Friday due to the threat of a possible explosive eruption.

Magma is draining out of the volcano’s sinking lava pool and flowing underground tens of miles eastward before bursting to the surface on Kilauea’s eastern flank in the lower Puna area.

“There’s still quite a fair bit of magma under the ground that’s available to erupt,” Tina Neal, the scientist in charge of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said in a conference call, adding that she saw no end to activity in the east rift zone.

Kilauea has been in a state of nearly constant eruption for 35 years. It predominantly oozes out lava from fissures that flows into the ocean but occasionally experiences more explosive eruptions, such as an event in 1924.

 

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester, writing and additional reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Editing by David Gregorio)

Hawaiians brave volcanic gases, lava to retrieve pets, belongings

Kilauea volcano's summit lava lake shows a significant drop of roughly 220 metres below the crater rim in this wide angle camera view showing the entire north portion of the Overlook crater in Hawaii, U.S. May 6, 2018. Picture taken on May 6, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS

By Terray Sylvester

PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) – Lava spewing in fountains up to 300 feet high from an erupting Hawaiian volcano has destroyed 35 homes and other buildings, officials said on Monday, warning residents allowed brief visits to their properties to be prepared to flee at a moment’s notice.

Lava advances towards a metal barrier in Puna, Hawaii, U.S., May 6, 2018 in this still image obtained from social media video. WXCHASING via REUTERS

Lava advances towards a metal barrier in Puna, Hawaii, U.S., May 6, 2018 in this still image obtained from social media video. WXCHASING via REUTERS

Many of the 1,700 people under orders to evacuate from the Leilani Estates neighborhood on the eastern side of the Big Island were permitted to return home during daylight hours on Sunday and Monday, during a lull in seismic activity from Kilauea.

“Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice,” the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said in an alert on its website. Residents of a second area, Lanipuna Gardens, were barred from returning home on Monday due to deadly volcanic gases.

Leilani Estates, some 12 miles from the volcano, was evacuated due to the risk of sulfur dioxide gas, which can be life threatening at high levels.

“Please, the residents of Leilani need our help. This is not the time for sightseeing. You can help tremendously by staying out of the area,” the agency said.

Kilauea, which began exploding on Thursday with fountains and rivers of lava flowing into neighborhoods, has opened 10 volcanic vents since then, officials said. Lava was not flowing from any of the vents on Monday.

So far, no deaths or major injuries have been reported, but the civil defense agency said at least 35 structures had been destroyed, many of them homes.

Residents of the Leilani Estates subdivision pass a checkpoint while driving to their homes to pick up belongings after being evacuated due to eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano on Monday in Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Residents of the Leilani Estates subdivision pass a checkpoint while driving to their homes to pick up belongings after being evacuated due to eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano on Monday in Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

The southeast corner of the island was rocked by a powerful magnitude 6.9 earthquake on the volcano’s south flank on Friday, the strongest tremor since 1975, and more earthquakes and eruptions have been forecast, perhaps for months to come.

Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes and one of five on the island, has been in constant eruption for 35 years. It predominantly blows off basaltic lava in effusive eruptions that flow into the ocean but occasionally experiences more explosive events.

“It’s been a bit of a chaotic week, a very stressful situation. It’s one of those hopeless, helpless outlooks. It’s hard to explain but the lava is right behind my house and it’s pretty surreal,” Leilani Estates homeowner Jared McManus told Reuters.

The Hawaii Star-Advertiser newspaper reported that a Hawaii-based utility, Puna Geothermal Venture, had 60,000 gallons (227,124 liters) of flammable pentane gas stored in the area that could not be removed until containers were delivered.

Some area residents returned for pets, medications and to check property on Sunday and Monday. Jeremy Wilson found his home surrounded by fissures hundreds of feet long.

“My house is right in the middle,” said Wilson, a 36-year-old social worker who turned back when he saw steam coming from cracks in the road.

The semi-rural wooded area had become a magnet for newcomers to the Big Island of Hawaii, home to about 200,000 people, who were prepared to risk living near an active volcano for more affordable real estate.

Jessica Gauthier, 47, said she and other local real estate agents had seen vacation renters cancel their reservations, though the volcanic activity is far from tourist centers.

“There’s no way to know that if you’re sitting in your living room in Ohio and watching the national news,” she said.

Hawaii’s 4,028-square-mile Big Island accounts for less than a fifth of the state’s tourism. State data show that in the first three months of 2018, 16 percent of the $4.81 billion visitors spent in Hawaii came from the Big Island, less than half of the levels seen in Oahu and Maui.

Gauthier predicted tourism would pick back up as a new kind of visitor began to appear.

“Within a month we’ll start getting lava tourists,” she said.

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester; additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Writing by Andrew Hay and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)

Fissures spread from Hawaii volcano, threatening more homes

Lava is seen from a fissure appearing behind a resident's backyard in Puna, Hawaii, U.S. in this still frame taken from May 6, 2018 video obtained from social media. KEITH BROCK/Social Media via REUTERS

By Terray Sylvester

PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) – Emergency crews said they were poised to evacuate more people as fissures kept spreading from Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano, five days after it started exploding.

Around 1,700 people have already been ordered to leave their homes after lava crept into neighborhoods and deadly volcanic gases belched up through cracks in the earth.

 

Lava engulfs a Ford Mustang in Puna, Hawaii, U.S., May 6, 2018 in this still image obtained from social media video. WXCHASING via REUTERS

Lava engulfs a Ford Mustang in Puna, Hawaii, U.S., May 6, 2018 in this still image obtained from social media video. WXCHASING via REUTERS

The evacuation zone could now grow as fissures are spreading into new areas on the eastern side of the Big Island, Hawaii Civic Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno told a community meeting

“If things get dicey, you got to get out,” he said. “If you live in the surrounding communities … be prepared. Evacuation could come at any time.”

Kilaueax has opened 12 volcanic vents since it started sending out fountains and rivers of lava on Thursday, officials said. Lava was not flowing from any of the vents on Monday.

Resident Heide Austin said she left her home just west of the current eruption zone after noticing small cracks appearing at the end of her driveway.

One eruption near her home “sounded like a huge blowtorch going off,” said the 77-year-old who lives alone. “That’s when I really got into a frenzy.”

Many of the evacuated people were permitted to return home during daylight hours on Sunday and Monday, during a lull in seismic activity.

Residents of a second area, Lanipuna Gardens, were barred from returning home on Monday due to deadly volcanic gases.

Leilani Estates, about 12 miles (19 km) from the volcano, was evacuated due to the risk of sulfur dioxide gas, which can be life threatening at high levels.

Puna district residents attend a community meeting during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano at Pahoa High and Intermediate School in Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Puna district residents attend a community meeting during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano at Pahoa High and Intermediate School in Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

No deaths or major injuries have been reported. At least 35 structures had been destroyed, many of them homes, officials said.

The southeast corner of the island was rocked by a powerful magnitude 6.9 earthquake on the volcano’s south flank on Friday. More earthquakes and eruptions have been forecast.

Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, has been in constant eruption for 35 years.

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester; Editing by Andrew Heavens)