Saturday, 5 May 2018
Hawaii earthquakes latest: Powerful 6.9 tremor hits as residents flee volcano's ‘curtain of fire’
Eruption follows a series of earthquakes earlier in the week
Jeremy B White San Francisco
A series of earthquakes rippled through a volcano-stricken island of Hawaii, where residents had already fled what one called a "curtain of fire".
Earthquakes have shaken the archipelago's Big Island for days, setting off lava flows and prompting warnings from authorities.
A 6.9 magnitude quake followed closely after a 5.8 magnitude event in the afternoon, both occurring near a town whose residents already faced mandatory evacuations due to bubbling lava.
Drone captures lava spewing out of ground after Hawaii volcano erupts
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The latter, more powerful earthquake occurred in almost the same location as a 1975 tremor that killed two people, according to the US Geological Service, but there were no reports of casualties.
Some 1,700 people were ordered from their homes as lava issued from the Kilaue volcano. More than 100 of them were staying in shelters as the danger showed no immediate signs of receding.
Molten lava flowed from newly active fissures in Leilani Estates, a community of just over 1,500 people.
Governor David Ige declared a state of emergency, noting that the lava flow was expected to continue advancing.
“The danger is of such magnitude that it warrants preemptive and protective action in order to provide for the safety, health and welfare of the residents of Leilani Estates and surrounding areas”, Mr Ige said in a statement.
His order activated the National Guard and deployed them to protect some 770 structures vacated by fleeing residents.
The vent spilling lava towards homes has been active for decades since it first erupted in 1983, and Mr Ige cautioned that past lava flows had displaced people and destroyed homes.
A new fissure estimated to be about 150m (492ft) long issued lava and bursts of gas for about two hours, imperilling areas downslope.
Vents in Leilani Estates remained active the following morning, with scientists noting that at least three fissures had opened and predicting “additional outbreaks”.
Timelapse video shows lava overflowing at the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii
Officials warned residents that “extremely high levels” of sulfur dioxide had been detected and urged them to evacuate.
“Elderly residents, young people, and others with respiratory issues should leave the area immediately”, officials said.
County of Hawaii mayor Harry Kim told reporters at least two homes had been “surrounded” by lava, noting that people had been awoken by sirens warning them of sulfur fumes.
“Hopefully we will minimise the impact as much as we can. It’s our job”, he said.
Multiple schools were shuttered and flights were restricted across the the affected area.
Lava could be seen leaping and pouring smoke into the air as authorities directed traffic in a residential area.
Drone footage captured by resident Jeremiah Osuna showed a glowing channel snaking through the forest and leaving a fiery pool spreading across a road.
“It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could. You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff”, adding that the eruption resembled resembled a “curtain of fire”.
The Federal Emergency Management Organisation was marshalling resources and keeping watch for forest fires, power outages and threats to water supplies, senator Brian Schatz said.
Authorities had warned residents that danger was imminent and that they should be prepared to evacuate after a series of earthquakes reverberated through the island, including an estimated 5.0 tremor at about 10:30 am on Thursday.
The Puu Oo crater collapsed earlier in the week, shooting a plume of ash skyward and sending a mass of magma under a highway and towards populated areas.