A hellish, 150-metre crack in the ground has opened up in Hawaii’s Leilani Estates neighbourhood and is spewing lava, molten rocks and high levels of sulphur dioxide into the air.
The neighbourhood is at the epicentre of an unfolding emergency after the Kilauea volcano erupted last Thursday evening. The blast was followed by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake on Friday, which according to the US Geological Survey was the island’s most powerful since 1975.
Lava can be seen spewing from a vent in Hawaii’s Leilani Estates community on the Big Island after eruption of Kilauea volcano. https://t.co/DdDqlKmyV2
The county has ordered evacuations for all of Leilani Estates, which according to the last Census has a population of 1,500. pic.twitter.com/v8O2poQGPe
— ABC News (@ABC) May 4, 2018
All 1,700 residents of Leilani Estates have been ordered to evacuate.
“The area continues to be unstable with volcanic venting and related hazards of earthquake and poisonous gases ongoing,” Hawaii Civil Defense Agency said on Saturday night.
Evacuees are gathering at shelters in the Pahoa and Keaau Community Centers set up by the American Red Cross. By Sunday, 26 homes had been destroyed.
Local resident Neil Valentine watched a video on social media of lava bubbling right outside his house.
“Just basically heartbreak,” he told told KITV.
“My wife and I have been married going on 26 years. It was pretty much our dream home that we’ve been looking for all this time. Just knowing that we’re not going to have a house, my wife is still in tears.”
Residents were briefly allowed to go back to their homes on Sunday to gather supplies and pick up any pets that might have been left behind. The area is becoming increasingly hazardous as the eruptions have released high levels of sulphur dioxide into the air. Breathing difficulties and serious throat and nose burn can arise, especially in seniors and children.
As of today, eruption of lava and gas still carries on along Kīlauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone, albeit at low levels. According to the United States Geological Survey, it is likely that this is only a pause in activity, and additional outbreaks are to be expected as seismicity continues in the area.