Volcano erupts in Hawaii, eruption prompts evacuation

May 05, 2018, 07:26 IST | Agencies

Hawaiian volcano erupts, sends lava fountains shooting into the air in residential neighbourhood; on Thursday, volcano's alert level was raised to the highest 'warning'

Up to 10,000 people have been asked to leave their homes on Hawaii's Big Island. Pic/AFP
Up to 10,000 people have been asked to leave their homes on Hawaii's Big Island. Pic/AFP

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted yesterday, sending lava shooting into the air in a residential neighbourhood and prompting mandatory evacuation orders for nearby homes. Hawaii County said steam and lava poured out of a crack in Leilani Estates, which is near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island. Aerial drone footage showed a line of lava snaking through a forest.

Resident Jeremiah Osuna captured drone footage of the lava burning through the trees, a scene he described as a "curtain of fire." "It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could. You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff," he said. Lava fountains were shooting 150 feet (46 meters) in the air, and molten lava spread out over an area about 200 yards (183 meters) wide behind one house in Leilani Estates.

County, state and federal officials had been warning residents all week that they should be prepared to evacuate, as an eruption would give little warning. Officials at the US Geological Survey on Thursday raised the volcano's alert level to warning status, the highest possible, meaning a hazardous eruption is imminent, underway or suspected.

The county has ordered evacuations for all of Leilani Estates, which according to the 2010 U.S. Census has a population of 1,500. The state also mobilized the Hawaii National Guard to assist with evacuations. Nearby community centers have opened for shelter. The US Geological Survey said new ground cracks were reported Thursday afternoon. Hot vapour emerged from a crack and spattering lava began to erupt. Scientists said areas downslope of the erupting vent were at risk of being covered by lava. Leilani Estates appeared to be at greatest risk, but scientists said new vents and outbreaks could occur and it's not possible to say where.

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