Kilauea: Earthquakes follow eruptions from Hawaii volcano


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AFP/Getty

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The USGS said “vigorous lava spattering” was happening

A number of strong earthquakes have hit Hawaii’s Big Island, a day after the eruption of the Kilauea volcano.

One quake, a 6.9 magnitude south-east of the volcano, was the most powerful to hit the US state since 1975.

It briefly cut power, and sent people fleeing from buildings but there was no tsunami warning.

Meanwhile there were several fresh eruptions sending up fountains of lava 30m (100ft), destroying several homes and leaving fissures on three streets.

The Civil Defense Agency told any remaining residents to evacuate.

It said there were deadly levels of dangerous sulphur dioxide gas in the air and emergency crews would not be able to help anyone affected.

The new volcanic activity in Mt Kilauea’s lower east rift zone amounted to “vigorous lava spattering”, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, adding that additional outbreaks in the area were likely.

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Media captionThe Kilauea volcano erupted after a series of earthquakes on the island

The lava was not travelling more than a “few tens of yards” from the vents, which were on streets in the Leilani Estates neighbourhood near Big Island’s eastern tip, the USGS said.

However ground deformation was continuing and there was high earthquake activity in the area, it said. Meanwhile the level of the lava lake inside the volcano was continuing to drop.

Two homes had been destroyed in the latest activity, ABC quoted Hawaii island Mayor Harry Kim as saying.

Residents described fleeing their homes on Thursday evening.

“My family is safe, the rest of the stuff can be replaced. When I bought here 14 years [ago], I knew that this day would eventually come. But the reality is sinking in now,” one resident told Hawaii News Now.

A spokesperson for the county of Hawaii’s Mayor, Janet Snyder, said “elevated levels” of sulphur dioxide were stopping people returning to evacuated areas.

“It is quite toxic and in fact, even our first responders find it too hazardous at this time to go back into the sub-divisions without heavy, protective equipment,” she said.

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USGS

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Steaming cracks appeared moments before a fissure opened early on Friday morning

Thursday’s eruption prompted a local state of emergency and the mandatory evacuation of 1,700 residents.

Community centres have been opened to provide shelter for evacuees.

Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and the eruption follows a series of recent earthquakes.

Officials had been warning residents all week they should be prepared to evacuate as an eruption would give little warning.

A volcanic crater vent – known as Puu Oo – collapsed earlier this week, sending lava down the mountain’s slopes towards populated areas.

Hawaii’s Governor, David Ige, said he had activated military reservists from the National Guard to help evacuate thousands of people.

‘Like someone playing the bass really heavy’

Maija Stenback, eyewitness

We live in Leilani Estates, about six blocks away from the eruption.

We were evacuated a couple of hours ago and we are now with friends.

Within about half an hour of the eruption, it was on social media, so me and my daughter went down to look at it. You could hear and feel the eruption a good half a mile away, and the closer you got, the more you could feel it.

It was like when someone plays the bass really heavy, and you can feel the bass – you could really feel the power and the lava – the colour was unbelievable, and the sound was unbelievable.

It sounds very explosive… It’s spitting out as hard as it can. It’s not so much what you hear, it’s what you feel.

One resident says: I’m not leaving

Earlier this year, a false alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile caused panic, leading the US state to reassess its alert system.


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