By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Authorities in Hawaii ordered mandatory evacuations on Thursday after Mount Kilauea, one of Hawaii’s most well-known active volcanoes, spewed lava and steam into a nearby residential neighborhood. There were no immediate reports of injuries, the Associated Press reported.
Officials Evacuate Two Subdivisions near Pahoa
Residents of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions near the town of Pahoa, on the Big Island of the Hawaiian chain, had been warned all week to prepare to evacuate. State and federal officials said an eruption would give them little warning.
Hawaii Governor David Ige activated the National Guard to help evacuate about 1,500 residents and provide security to about 770 structures left empty when residents sought shelter. Local officials opened shelters at the Pahoa Regional Community Center and at the Keaau Community Center.
Hawaii Fire Department Warns of Toxic Gas Caused by Kilauea Eruption
Hawaii Fire Department officials warned that “extremely high levels of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas” was detected in the evacuation area. Fire officials said “the elderly, young and people with respiratory issues need to comply with the mandatory evacuation order and leave the area,” the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported.
Residents were told to bring an emergency evacuation supply kit, including needed medicines, food and other items for comfort if possible, the Star Advertiser added.
The AP reported local television showing lava spurting into the sky from a crack in a road. Aerial drone footage showed a line of lava snaking through a forest.
USGS Had Raised Volcano Alert Level to Highest Warning Level
Earlier Thursday, officials at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) had raised the volcano’s alert level to warning status. That is the highest level and means that a hazardous eruption is imminent, underway or suspected.
A magnitude 5.0 earthquake was recorded hours before the eruption began. The eruption followed days of earthquakes that rattled the Puna district.
A nearby school was closed due to the ongoing seismic activity. Several roads cracked under the strain of the constant temblors.
Asta Miklius, a geophysicist with the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told the Associated Press that there was no way to know exactly how long Kilauea’s eruption will continue.
“There is quite a bit of magma in the system,” Miklius said. “It won’t be just an hours-long eruption probably, but how long it will last will depend on whether the summit magma reservoir gets involved. And so we are watching that very, very closely.”
Kilauea is located along the southern shore of Hawaii, the largest of the Hawaiian island chain and known as the Big Island. The volcano is thought to be between 300,000 and 600,000 years old, making it one of the youngest in the region.
Despite its relatively young age, Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on earth.