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Hawaii volcano eruption sends lava into residential area, prompting evacuations

2018-05-04

Nearly 1,500 residents were ordered to evacuate from their volcano-side homes after Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano erupted Thursday, sending red molten lava to chew its way through forest land and bubble up on paved streets.

Volcano officials couldn’t predict how long the eruption could last, prompting Hawaii’s Gov. David Ige to activate the National Guard to help with evacuations and provide security to about 770 structures left empty when residents sought shelter.

Footage shown on local television showed lava spurting into the sky from a crack in a road. Aerial drone footage showed a line of lava snaking through a forest.

Hawaiian County Civil Defense said steam and lava poured out of a crack in Leilani Estates, which is near the town of Pahoa on the eastern side of the Big Island.

Previously, residents in the Puna community of about 10,000 were told to evacuate, Hawaii News Now reported. Officials were going door-to-door urging residents to flee.

In this photo released by U.S. Geological Survey, lava is shown burning in Leilani Estates subdivision near the town of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island Thursday, May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea volcano erupted Thursday, sending lava shooting into the air in the residential neighborhood and prompting mandatory evacuation orders for nearby residents. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Lava is shown burning in Leilani Estates subdivision near the town of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island Thursday, May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  (USGS via AP)

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

"People need to remain vigilant and prepared and informed, and think about their family and business and response plans," said Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge with the USGS Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory.

Resident Jeremiah Osuna captured drone footage of the lava burning through the trees, a scene he described as a “curtain of fire.”

“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,” he told Honolulu's KHON-TV.

A “plume of ash” had been reported in the vicinity of Pahoa.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported a 4.6 magnitude earthquake earlier Thursday morning off the south flank of the volcano. The USGS reported that there were nearly 70 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or stronger from Tuesday to Wednesday. 

Earlier in the week, the Pu’u O’o crater floor on Kilauea volcano’s East Rift Zone collapsed, triggering increased earthquake activity and lava flow. Magma pushed more than 10 miles downslope toward the populated southeast coastline of the island.

A plume of ash rises from the Puu Oo vent on Hawaii's Kilaueaa Volcano Thursday, May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  (USGS via AP)

"Last night, we started having them ... about five a minute. It was like that just about all night long," Chris Burmeister, who lives in Leilani Estates, told News Now. "It'll rumble for a little bit. Rumble for a little bit. And then every now and then, you'll get just a heavy jolt."

In Leilani Estates, residents reported several large cracks on the road measuring 18 inches long and 2 inches wide, Hawaii News Now reported. Hot vapor emerged from a crack and spattering lava began to erupt. But firefighters and USGS scientist told the channel that that cracks had not been an immediate threat.

A nearby community center has opened for shelter.

Most of Kilauea’s activity has been nonexplosive, but a 1924 eruption spewed ash and 10-ton rocks into the sky, leaving one man dead.

Puu Oo’s 1983 eruption resulted in lava fountains soaring over 1,500 feet high. In the decades since, the lava flow has buried dozens of square miles of land and destroyed many homes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Amy Lieu is a news editor and reporter for Fox News.