Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has erupted from its summit, sending a plume of ash about 30,000 feet into the sky

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted from its summit before dawn on Thursday, after two weeks of activity and the opening of more than a dozen fissures that spewed lava into neighbourhoods

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2018, 12:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2018, 1:05am

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted from its summit before dawn on Thursday, shooting a dusty plume of ash about 30,000 feet (9,100 metres) into the sky. 

The 6am explosion came after two weeks of volcanic activity and the opening of more than a dozen fissures east of the crater that spewed lava into neighbourhoods, said Mike Poland, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey. 

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“Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports that an Explosive Eruption at Kilauea’s Summit has occurred,” County of Hawaii Civil Defence said in a phone alert. “The resulting ash plume will cover the surrounding area. Shelter in place if you are in the path of the ash plume.”

Residents in a town close to the volcano are reporting light amounts of ash falling on their homes. Poland says accumulations are minimal, and it will likely be trace amounts near the volcano and on a nearby town, named Volcano. 

About two hours after the eruption, Poland said the webcam view showed a dusty plume rising from the summit. It looked like it was a steam and ash plume.

The crater sits within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed since May 11 in preparation for an eruption. 

Officials said they didn’t expect the explosion to be deadly as long as people remained out of the closed national park. Poland said the eruption ended around six minutes after it began.

At least 26 homes and 10 other structures have already been destroyed by lava slowing out of the fissures in the ground around the volcano. 

Scientists warned on May 9 that a drop in the lava lake at the summit might create conditions for an explosion that could fling ash and boulders the size of refrigerators into the air. 

They predicted it would mostly release trapped steam from flash-heated groundwater, in a manner similar to a kitchen pressure cooker. Communities a mile or two away may be showered by pea-size fragments or dusted with non-toxic ash, they said. 

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Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. An eruption in 1924 killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days. It has been erupting continuously since 1983. 

It is one of five volcanoes that comprise the Big Island of Hawaii, and the only one currently erupting.