Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Eruption Forces Evacuation of Area Residents

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has been releasing red lava into a residential subdivision, prompting the county to order mandatory evacuations. Video footage of the event shows fiery lava flows spewing debris and clouds of ash and smoke. The eruption began around 4:45 pm local time Thursday (0245 GMT Friday) and caused hours of “lava spatter and gas bursts” to erupt in the Leilani Estates subdivision of the USA state’s Big Island, prompting the mandatory evacuation of some 1,700 people.

The reports come in the wake of a 5.0-magnitude natural disaster that shook the Big Island Thursday morning, and after hundreds of small tremors rattled residents for days. Scientists say it is almost impossible to predict how long an eruption will last.

“Eruptive activity resumes from a new vent in Leilani subdivision on the Island of Hawaii”, USGS tweeted at about 5:15 a.m. local time. “You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff”.

Hours before Thursday’s eruption, a 5.0-magnitude temblor shook the area.

Despite its relatively young age, Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on earth.

So far, experts warn that more cracks could appear, but it is near impossible to predict where they’ll pop up. In addition to the danger from lava, civil defense officials are warning the public about high levels of sulfur dioxide.

The eruption comes after days of earthquakes rattled the area’s Puna district.

Despite this, many residents say they’re frustrated that they’re not being allowed to go home.

Kilauea is located along the southern shore of Hawaii, the largest of the Hawaiian island chain and known as the Big Island. “We have to be very aware that it’s not just the lava, it’s the fumes, the runaway fire, any kind of exposure caused by lava”, said Big Island Mayor Harry Kim.

She said she thought it was remote even days ago when she began packing and preparing to evacuate.

Betty Long, 72, another Leilani Estates resident, evacuated to the shelter near Pahoa in the early hours of Friday morning, but her husband stayed behind with their pets because he was afraid of looters.

On Tuesday, nearby residents noticed cracks running across roads in their neighborhoods.

The crater floor began to collapse on Monday, triggering earthquakes and pushing the lava into new underground chambers.

In the wake of the eruption, schools have closed, and so has a geothermal power plant. The collapse caused magma to push more than 10 miles (16 kilometres) downslope toward the populated southeast coastline of the island. The initial 1983 eruption sent lava more than 1,500 feet in the air, according to the AP.

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