Hawaii's erupting Kilauea volcano threatens highways

15 May, 2018, 16:18 | Author: Dustin Murphy
  • Danger Continues to Grow for Hawaii Residents with Kilauea Volcano

More lava-belching cracks are expected to open among homes and countryside about 40km east of Kilauea's smoking summit, possibly blocking another remaining exit route, Highway 132.

The newest flow appears to be heading towards the ocean and a highway.

Almost 20 fissures have opened since the Kilauea volcano started erupting 12 days ago, and officials warn it may soon blow its top with a massive steam eruption that would shoot boulders and ash miles into the sky.

Hawaii National Guard spokesman Jeff Hickman said if either highway is hit by lava, mass evacuations would be triggered.

So far, around 2,000 people in Big Island's lower Puna district have been ordered to evacuate but thousands more from the region's 187,000 residents could follow, if authorities decide that evacuation routes are under threat.

The American Red Cross said 500 people sought refuge in its shelters on Sunday night because of worsening volcanic activity.

There are at least 19 fissures now, and fissure 17 is producing lava spatter that is being closely monitored.


"The appearance of the fissures in the past couple of days does not change the overall picture or concern", USGS scientist Steve Brantley said.

A similar seismic event in 1955 lasted 88 days, he said.

On Monday, the Hawaii State Department of Health warned residents in Lanipuna Gardens of unsafe levels of sulfur dioxide gas. The air quality in the area was declared "condition red", meaning it was an immediate danger to health. "Severe conditions may exist such as choking and inability to breathe", the department said in the alert. The U.S. Geological Survey said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano's Halemaumau crater has raised the potential for explosive eruptions at the volcano.

The eruptions have opened almost 20 vents in the ground. People nixing vacations to Hawaii's Big island has cost the tourism industry millions of dollars as the top attraction, Kilauea volcano, keeps spewing lava.

The Big Island tourism board estimates $5 million worth of cancellations from May through July.

Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed since Friday, due to several possible threats including a possible steam explosion at Kilauea.

This is the "first leak we're seeing out of the bucket", Birch said.

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