More Hawaii residents forced to evacuate as new volcano fissures vent lava and toxic gas in neighbourhood

So far, volcanic vents and lava flows have destroyed 36 structures since the Kilauea volcano erupted on Thursday; all 1,700 residents of the Leilani area have been told to leave their homes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 May, 2018, 1:49am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 May, 2018, 2:12am

Lava and toxic gas from two new fissures in the Kilauea volcano spread through a Hawaii neighbourhood on Wednesday, hours after residents heard warning sirens and received phone messages urging them to “evacuate now”.

Residents of Lanipuna Gardens in the southeast of Hawaii’s Big Island were told to head for the coast because they were in immediate danger from clouds of sulphur dioxide gas and fountains of lava.

“EVACUATION NOTICE: New Vents Open, Lanipuna In Danger,” Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said on Twitter at about 10pm local time on Tuesday (4pm HKT, 4am EST on Wednesday).

Volcanic vents and lava flows have destroyed 36 structures since Kilauea erupted on Thursday and all 1,700 residents of the Leilani Estates residential area, of which Lanipuna Gardens is a part, have been told to leave their homes in the semi-rural area.

Emergency teams donned breathing equipment and protective clothing to evacuate residents who stayed behind to care for pets and livestock. Local TV coverage showed crews driving gingerly over motorways as steam shot from widening cracks in the asphalt.

Kim urged residents to leave their houses and not put rescue crews at risk.

Geologists reported loud jetting and booming sounds as lava shot from the new fissures around 12 miles (19km) from the cone of the shallow-sided volcano, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported.

The new eruptions brought to 14 the number of vents that have opened since Kilauea started spraying fountains of lava as high as 300 feet (90 metres) into the air.

Lava has been bubbling out of about two-and-a-half miles (4km) of fissures that officials have warned are slowly spreading eastward.

On Friday, the southeastern corner of the island was rocked by a powerful magnitude-6.9 earthquake on the volcano’s south flank, the strongest since 1975. Smaller quakes followed, and the eruptions and tremors could continue for months.

Geologists have compared the activity with an event in 1955 which lasted 88 days and covered around 4,000 acres with lava. The area has become popular with newcomers to Hawaii with land prices relatively low because of the area’s history of volcanic venting.

About 104 acres (roughly 42 hectares) of land have been covered in the current eruption. Kilauea has been in a state of nearly constant activity since 1983.