Hawaii County expands evacuation after eruption


Residents from Luana Street to the end of Leilani Estates are being asked to evacuate, Hawaii County Civil Defense confirms. You will be informed of any conditions that affect your safety.

According to emergency officials, all areas from Pu'u O'o crater down to Kapoho along the East Rift Zone are at risk.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has also closed off access to about 15,688 acres, which run from the Puu Oo vent to the ocean.

"That's the million-dollar question", Janet Babb, a geologist and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory spokesperson, told Live Science.

The eruption occurred after a series of earthquakes on the island over the last couple of days, including a 5.0 tremor at about 10:30 am, the US Geological Survey reported on its website. No tsunami threat to Hawaiʻi Island.

"An outbreak of lava from the lower East Rift Zone remains a possible outcome of the continued unrest", according to USGS in a Wednesday night update. Resident Ikaika Marzo said he could see "fountains" of lava in the community.

The first signs of trouble in Leilani Estates came about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, when residents reported plumes of smoke spewing from cracks in the road.

Area motorists are advised to be on the alert for roadway damage.

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Locals have been advised to prepare in case they need to evacuate.

Stay informed on the situation by listening to your radio. Jim Kauahikaua of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory compared this week's seismic activity as similar to what the island saw before massive three month long 1955 Kiluaea eruption that cut through nearly 4,000 acres. Because it is impossible to predict where an eruption could occur, those areas will be affected if an eruption were to occur.

Earlier in the week, the crater floor of the Puu Oo (POO'-oo OH'-oh) vent collapsed.

"It appears that ground shaking from the quake caused rockfalls in the Puu Oo crater on Kilauea Volcano's East Rift Zone, which resulted in a short-lived plume of reddish ash rising above the cone", said Tina Neal, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge.

"A short-lived plume of ash produced by this event lofted skyward and is continuing to dissipate as it drifts southwest from Puu Oo", an advisory from the agency said, warning that "anyone downwind may experience a dusting of ash".

Kiluaea has actually been erupting regularly since 1983, and its lava flows are one of the island's biggest tourist attractions.

USGS officials have been tracking the lava's movement using instruments measuring ground levels and seismic activity. Most were magnitude 2.0 to 2.8 and they were coming at the rate of 8 - 10 per hour in the Puna Area.